How to Learn About a Company’s Culture Before You Interview
Despite all the talk about work/life balance, Americans still spend a lot of their time at work. Isn’t it important, then, to not only like what you do but also enjoy the people and environment that come with your job? Before you send out that next resume or fill out that long online application, stop to think: What do you actually know about this company?
It’s difficult to fully understand a company’s culture simply by interviewing. Further complicating the issue, you may sometimes need to make a decision about a job offer after a series phone and video interviews, never setting foot in the office at all.
Many people have accepted job offers only to shortly thereafter regret their decisions because of management, coworkers, or the way business was conducted. To help you avoid that situation in the future, here is a brief guide to learning more about a company’s culture through networking, social media, research, and visiting the facility.
Networking is crucial when researching a company’s culture. Start by contacting people you know who have worked or currently work for the company. If you don’t know anyone on staff, don’t be afraid to contact people you don’t know, such as second- and third-degree LinkedIn connections. Send these new contacts a polite and brief introductory message asking if they’d be willing to speak to you for 10-15 minutes about their experience with the organization. You may have to send out a few messages before you get a response. Don’t get discouraged.
To make your networking meetings more productive, first decide what you’re looking for in a company culture, then write down a few relevant questions to ask your contacts. Make your questions specific and ask for examples whenever possible — for example, “How often do you have meetings with your supervisor?” or “Is telecommuting permitted in your role?”
Powerful Pictures on Social Media
A company’s Facebook and Instagram pages are excellent resources from which to gain essential insights into a company’s culture. Through these websites — especially the pictures shared by the organization and its employees — you may get to see the inside of the facility, scope out the dress code, and take a look at the office layout (cubicles? Beanbag chairs? Closed-door offices?) You may also be able to determine whether the company celebrates holidays and/or birthdays, participates in team-building events, or recognizes employees. Finally, social media accounts can also give you an idea of how the company lives its values and mission and, most importantly, whether those values and mission align with your own.
Several online resources can assist you in your research into company culture. Some particularly good ones include Glassdoor, The Muse, LinkedIn, and company press releases.
Glassdoor is a great place to start your research. Here, people post anonymous reviews of their employers, outlining things like how the workday is structured, how much supervision employees have, the energy of the workplace, how work is assigned, and opportunities for growth and advancement.
The Muse provides a selection of company profiles in which organizations detail their core missions and introduce some of their key people — people you can network with on LinkedIn or Twitter. Employer profiles on The Muse also often showcase pictures of the facilities and videos of employees discussing the work they do and the experience of working for an organization.
On LinkedIn, you can use the company search feature to see who works for a given employer and how long they have worked there. This information is vital to understanding turnover and retention, which is related to employee satisfaction. You can also read the profiles of employees and hiring managers with whom you might work. By carefully reading their job histories and publications, you can get a feeling for what it might be like to work alongside them.
Recent press releases will give you additional insight into a company’s values and mission. For example, you can see if the company gives back to the community or if it has experienced any significant problems in the past. If the latter is true, look into how the organization resolved its issues. Owler is a good source for company press releases and news.
Drive By the Facility
If you live within a commutable distance from the work location, you may find it helpful to drive by at the start or end of a workday. Observing employees can help you better understand their attitudes toward their jobs and the company.
Are employees slowly shuffling their feet toward the entrance, or do they walk and talk together with enthusiasm? Do they dress in sweatpants, suits, or something in between? You may also be able to see how much work employees bring home, which reflects the general state of work/life balance at the organization.
Although there is no way to fully understand an organization’s culture without being a part of it, investing some time up front can save you hours of deliberating and, potentially, years of regret.
Evelyn Bourassa is a bilingual career coach, experienced in working with international and domestic clients.