From understanding what makes you tick to assessing how the job interview was handled, Clare Whitmell shares her tips on how to find out if an organisation’s culture is right for you
The application process is a great opportunity for jobseekers to gather information about what it’s like to work for an organisation. Here are some key areas to look out for:
Understand what makes you tick
What would your ideal company be like to work for, and what are the essentials of a great job for you? To find an organisation where you’ll flourish, the company values should match your own. This could be any number of things, for example, a good work-life balance, the chance to succeed quickly with good earning potential, or commitment to diversity or sustainability.
Work out where you’ve been happiest or felt most fulfilled. For example, are you at your most productive in smaller companies and start-ups with informal or rapid decision-making processes? Or do you prefer working in larger companies with a more rigid structure? What about management style? Perhaps you prefer a hands-off approach, or regular feedback from a boss?
Research the company
The about us page on the company website should give you an idea of what the company thinks of itself and the image it wants to project. What vision does it have and what targets does it set? What milestones and achievements is it most proud of? Does it include any employee testimonials. If so, what do they say about the company culture?
The work for us page can also offer clues to the type of employee that the company wants to attract, as well as what to expect from the application procedure.
Remember, what a company says about itself might not always be practised to the letter within departments or by individual managers. It’s also worth going beyond the official company website: find out what employees are saying on LinkedIn, the organisation’s Facebook page, Twitter or on blogs.
Use your network, too. Do you know anyone who works there, or can you get an introduction to someone who does so you can gain insights into the company culture?
At application stage
The application process can tell you a lot about the company: how it treats people and how it makes decisions. Is the process fair, with clearly-stated equality policies? Can you get information if you need it, or is the process lacking in clarity and transparency?
How are you treated during the application and interview stage? Delays in decision-making may be unavoidable, but absence of explanations or communication is not. A lack of feedback or even acknowledgement of your application may leave you wondering whether it’s down to heavy workloads, disorganisation or a lack of courtesy.
During the interview
An interview is a great opportunity to get a feel for the company culture. A tour of the company will allow you to get an idea of the general atmosphere. Check out the workspaces, how people interact with each other and your interviewer. Is it quiet, lively, relaxed or formal?
How is the interview handled? A well-prepared interviewer will have read your CV and will probably have a few questions about it. Notice how the interviewer behaves and whether there are any warning signs, for example, if what is said is at odds with what you can see around you.
As well as asking the questions that demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm in the role, ask questions that draw out clues about the company culture. “What do you like about working here?”, or “what sort of people tend to do well here?” and “how would you describe the company culture?” are useful questions for getting a handle on whether you would fit in. Ask about colleagues too. For example, you could ask, “what can you tell me about the team?” If your potential line manager is interviewing you, ask about preferred communication and management styles so you know what to expect.
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