Every company has its own culture—what it values, how it approaches its mission, and what it expects from employees. The tricky part is that this is not always evident from outside sources. So how do you know if a company will be a good fit for you, outside of the baseline professional requirements?
Broaden your research.
Sure, you’ve looked at the company’s site to glean its mission statement and what it shows publicly. But if you want to get a sense of what life is really like at this company, it’s time to go outside the corporate site. Sites like Glassdoor and Salary.com have company reviews direct from current and former employees. Though you should be sure to take individual reviews with a grain of salt—you never know if someone is using the site to nurse a grudge. But if you look at a lot of different reviews, you can get an overall sense of how the company operates, culturally. A company’s social media profiles (particularly LinkedIn and Facebook) can also provide useful glimpses at what a company is really like.
Read the job description extra carefully.
The job description tells you the bare bones of what this job will require, but it can also give you glimpses of what it’s like to work at the company. Does the listing include any information about benefits? Those can tell you what the company values. Are there keywords like “self-starter” or “independent thinker”? Those can be clues to the management style you can expect as part of the company’s culture. Think about what information the company presents about itself and prioritizes in the job description, and consider whether these things are most important to you in a job as well.
Note how the company interacts with you.
When you apply, do you get a series of automatic form letters thanking you for your interest? Do you get an email directly from a human that is warm and friendly, and clearly written directly to you? Do they respond quickly (within a day or two), or is response time dragged out to a week or more? How the company interacts with you can tell you what they value, and what they expect of their public-facing employees.
Analyze the interview process.
The organization of the interview process can also be a key indicator of what the company culture is like. If things feel disorganized—people are running late, or didn’t realize you were coming in to interview today—that shows you a lot about the priority the company places on organization and on the hiring process in general. If they don’t value the interview and let chaos dictate the process, is that a place where you’ll feel comfortable and nurtured as a new employee? On the flip side, if you come in, and meet with people who are not only prepared, but enthusiastic to talk with you, that shows you that the place values employees’ time.
During the hiring process, it can be easy to forget that you’re not the only one being tested here—you want a job and a workplace that fits your personality and career goals. After all, you’ll be spending dozens of hours per week at this place. If you find the culture and atmosphere to be toxic, it’s not a great option for you or the company to feel unhappy or stressed.