How to Know A Company’s Workplace Culture Before You’re Hired

workplace cultureWorkplace culture has been described as the personality of your workplace. It’s the feeling you get when you’re working there: the attitudes, the accepted behaviors and norms, the values.

Workplace cultures can be vastly different. One might support brainstorming, asking questions, and innovation, while another might bring shame upon the person who doesn’t know an answer.

But culture, maybe more than any other factor, can be the make or break of whether you like your job.

I’ve heard of people doing work that on the surface would seem boring and tedious, but because they have a great culture and are surrounded by great people, they are thriving.

Similarly, people doing interesting work can hate their jobs if their culture is toxic.

So getting culture right is critical.

So how can you, as a job seeker, know what a workplace culture is like, before you get yourself tangled up in it?

Know the Workplace Culture You’re Looking For

Before you head out into the world to seek a company with a great workplace culture, you need to know what kind of culture particularly suits you.

Are you the kind of person who thrives on new experiences and being given the free rein to dive into projects without a ton of guidance? If so, then you might do well at a place with a more entrepreneurial culture.

If that idea makes you break out into a cold sweat, you’d probably do better at a place with better defined rules and norms, and therefore probably a place that has more well-established roles and expectations.

We all want people to be nice, and our boss not to be a monster, but go beyond that and really define what type of culture you want to be working in.

Tools for Assessing Workplace Culture

The first step is to do research online. What are people saying about the company you’re interested in? Look at places like Glassdoor.com and Indeed.com to review the company and see what current and former employees have to say.

Don’t just understand if they’re happy or not, try to understand what the place is really like – what kind of culture does the company have?

Don’t stop there, though. It is possible that the people who take the time to review their company online are the ones that have something negative to say, and so you may be getting a biased view. That’s why you have to dig a little deeper.

Informational Interviews Strike Again

If you’ve been on this blog for a while, you’ll know that I love informational interviews.  I think they’re an amazing way to experience things without actually having to experience them. Here, you can ask people you already know in companies you’re interested in, or make new connections and ask them about their experience.

  • What is their company like?
  • How much do they welcome or discourage independent thinking?
  • How much do they value work/life balance?

You get the idea.

If you’ve satisfied yourself that you have a good sense of what it’s like to work at a company (get more than one data point), then you can decide whether it makes sense to move forward with this company as one of your potential targets.

Trust Yourself

Ultimately you are the one who will have to work in the environment. If you’ve met people and you don’t get a good vibe, go with your gut, no matter what people are saying. Ultimately, you don’t have a crystal ball, and the research you do can only get you so far in determining the type of culture that exists behind closed doors. If you pick up on something that isn’t being said, you need to believe that it’s real.

You Can Find A Great Workplace Culture

Just like you, there are people out there that want to work in great environments. Great workplaces do exist. It’s just up to you to uncover them!


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