Determining whether a company is a “fit” for you from a cultural perspective is more difficult today than it was 10 years ago. Many companies hide a poor culture under layers of flashy décor, fancy websites, and free snacks. But how important is a free snack when it comes to deciding between one company or another? Don’t let superficial perks cloud your judgement! Here are some key questions to ask yourself when trying to figure out whether the companies you’re interviewing with have a good culture:
What kind of environment is best for you?
Before you can evaluate whether a company culture is a fit, ask yourself what kind of environment works best for you. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Do you work better with a manager who is hands on, or hands off? Do you feel more comfortable in a job where you’re doing the same thing every day, or do you need variety and change? What stresses you out? What inspires you? Knowing these answers to questions about yourself will help you figure out if an employer can give you what you need to be successful in your career.
What is the work environment like? How do employees engage?
You’re judging them, just like they’re judging you. You can learn a lot about a company’s culture by the way your interviewers engage with you, and their fellow colleagues. Does your interviewer follow through on what she says she is going to do? Are instructions, directions, and expectations made clear to you through the interview phase? Do people sit in a large open area or does everyone have an office? Do you notice employees conversing casually or are they more formal? These questions will help you determine what it’s like to work for them, and whether you’d fd their culture frustrating or inspiring.
How long has the average employee been with the company?
Employees who stick around are a sign of a positive company culture. Ask your interviewer how long he’s been with the company (or check his LinkedIn profile if you want to be more discreet). If you find a high percentage of employees who have been with the company for a short time, this is a red flag. Frequent turnover often indicates a stressful environment and a management team that doesn’t care, and doesn’t take the time to ensure their company is a great place to work.
How interested in you are they…really?
It’s hard for employers to get their hiring timeline just right, but this is an important part of finding the right fit. Long hiring processes with lots of hoops to jump through can be indicative of a company culture that is demanding and has unreasonable expectations. A very short hiring process might mean they’re desperate and just looking for a quick band-aid. Hiring managers should be as curious about you as you are about them, and should ask you questions that help them get to know you as a person. If you don’t find your interviewer taking a genuine interest in determining if you’re a fit, that’s a red flag.
How transparent is your interviewer when you ask probing questions?
You’re going to spend 40+ hours a week with these people, so you need to like them. Asking probing, personal questions will help you decide if they’re a culture fit. What does your interviewer like most about his job? What does he like least? What has been their biggest struggle as a team? What kind of goals do they have over the next several years? What does their team like to do for fun? Do they do things as a team outside of the office? What kind of hours do they keep? What is the biggest hurdle new employees must overcome? Their level of transparency will reveal a lot, and will help you decide if you’d thrive in their environment.
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