Lisa Shuster, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP and iHire's Chief People Officer answers your tough job search and hiring questions.
We spend most of our waking hours at work. While the nature of the job, salary, bonuses, benefits, etc. are important factors to consider when seeking new employment, culture is perhaps the most impactful to your success and happiness on the job.
So, what is culture? It’s the personality of the company and “how things are done around here.” It consists of things such as the company’s core values, how people interact with one another, dress code, physical layout of the office, work hours, flexibility, how performance is rewarded (or punished), and dozens of other factors. In fact, until you’re working at a company for a month or two, you cannot fully grasp the culture.
Given its importance, however, be sure to make a concerted effort to uncover a potential employer’s culture. This can be accomplished through research, observation, and asking the right questions.
Once you’ve been invited to interview, start researching. Good places to start are the company’s annual report, the company’s website, and employment sites such as Indeed and Glassdoor. Consistently negative reviews on these sites are a red flag. Furthermore, if the company has a reputation for treating its customers poorly, you likely won’t be treated any better as an employee.
Actions speak louder than words. Arrive at the interview early to observe how employees interact with one another, how they are dressed, and their level of professionalism. Are there pictures of the company softball team on the wall? Has the company received “best place to work” awards? Do employees look happy? Does the environment feel upbeat? Note the way you are treated by any team member you interact with, and remember: people are on their best behavior during the interview process. If you are not treated well then, it’s a sign you won’t be treated well as an employee.
Ask the Right Questions
Unless you know someone working at the company, your interviewer is going to be your key source of information, so ask questions that will give you a good sense of what working there will really be like. Simply asking, “What is the culture like here?” will likely not yield very useful or illustrative information. Instead, consider asking some of the following questions:
Getting a handle on a company’s culture is not always easy, but with some research, keen observation, and good questions, you should be able to get a sense of whether or not you could picture yourself working there. And at that point, go with your gut!