By Christina M. Nguyen
In a tight job market, it’s tempting to accept the first role that comes around, and not consider the culture – what it’s like to work at a particular organization. But “culture fit” is a huge aspect of any job search. Who works at the organization, how bosses treat employees, how much people work, what the perks are, and what social dynamics exist, are often big determinants of an employee’s long-term happiness at a role.
Before you accept any job you’ve been offered, try your best to determine if the company’s culture fits who you are. Interviews will tell you a little bit about the brand’s values, but the office dynamics may not exactly match. Here are some ways you can determine a company’s culture before working for them:
Many candidates ask about a company’s culture but then stop there. That makes it easy for the interviewers to give the company line and leave it at that. (“We’re a laid-back culture” – that might be true for them but the interviewers may have different definitions of “laid back” than you do.) To get a more accurate picture, ask more specific questions such as:
Glassdoor reviews written by former and current employees can be hugely revealing about what it’s like to work there. Focus on the reviews from people in your department if that’s possible as sometimes different department heads create different environments for employees to work in. The site doesn’t explicitly ask for reviewers to discuss the culture, but it’s usually there in black and white. Also, make sure you’re looking at the right office location if it’s a large company.
If the company is pretty well-known, you can probably find some additional articles and forum posts on what it’s like to work there. Don’t forget to check if anyone in your network is familiar with the organization as well.
In some cases, you may be already familiar with the company’s products and services. But it’s important to dig a bit deeper and read about the organization’s mission statement (if they have one), or even understand the story of how the company was founded. Look through its social media accounts to see how the organization applies these stated values. For example, if its mission statement on the site discusses valuing diversity but the influencers that work for the company all look quite similar, it may not be very committed to that ideal.
Culture isn’t about providing employees ping pong tables and yoga retreats. But the more activities and internal community-building events a company creates for employees, the more likely it is that it cares at least on the surface about the employees’ mental health and well-being. One thing to look at: Do employees post about the internal community-building activities at the company? It might be a reflection of true loyalty. If the company is still working remotely, ask the interviewers what types of community-building activities the company had during the in-person days.
In today’s divided world, it’s crucial to consider the company’s political stances. Is it non-partisan? Does it lean right or left? Is it progressive on issues or more conservative? It’s fine in either case but make sure you feel comfortable working and supporting the company and what it believes. It can be hard to determine at first as most companies state openly that they are generally non-partisan. In practice, that is rarely the case and there are clues to help decipher this more: Does the company give to a particular political party or group more consistently? How does the leadership talk about current events? How does the company view environmental issues or worker conditions? These are all key areas to probe as you look at your fit.
In the end, it’s important to be honest with your values and lifestyle. Given the economic situation due to the pandemic, we at Find My Marketer certainly understand that securing an offer right now means a critical paycheck at a time when many others aren’t working. That said, if a company doesn’t match who you are, it can also be its own form of disaster. And it’s never a good idea to force yourself to work somewhere you might be unhappy, even if you’re gaining the work experience you were looking for. Poor mental health will only hamper your ability to be at your most creative and productive.
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