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The Best Ways to Evaluate Corporate Culture

When evaluating a new opportunity, there are many things to consider, including location, salary, management structure, organizational goals, opportunity for career growth, and of course, corporate culture.

Corporate culture, or the essence of an organization, encompasses values, mission, employee engagement, social responsibility and so much more. It’s a shared set of beliefs and often is indescribable because of all the factors that play into it. So, if it’s so hard to define, what are the best ways to evaluate corporate culture and if a company will be a fit for you and your career longevity?

Here’s what our career experts had to say.

Kelli McGrath | Technology

Having an idea of what type of corporate culture you’re looking for, is the best way to determine if the company will be a good fit. Start by writing down the keys to your own personal ideal situation and what is motivating to you. Document these questions and have them ready to ask during each stage of the interview process to see if the answers match.

During your phone screen, pay attention to whether the conversation is fluid and the interviewer is likable and actively listening. The more at ease you feel, the more indicative it is of the corporate culture. If the interviewer is robotic or just asks canned questions like “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” it may be reflective of the culture.

For in-person interviews, take into consideration office décor, setup, dress code, office chatter and buzz. Was there a warm welcome at the front desk? Does the space include offices, cubicles, pods or an open floor plan? Are people at their desks or is it empty? What amenities do they offer (gym, café, parking, outdoor space)?

Ask the people you meet questions like:

  • What do you like about the company?
  • Why do you stay here?
  • What is the work from home policy?
  • What are the typical hours?
  • If someone was in the role you are interviewing for, why did they leave?

If you’ll be managing a team, consider asking to meet them to evaluate whether or not you would be a fit.

Elizabeth Webster Felix | Finance & Administrative

To me, the best way to evaluate corporate culture is during the interview phase. The questions you prepare should aim to cut through the perceived company image. Sometimes how the organization portrays themselves can be misleading depending on the company’s website, social media presence and marketing strategies.

Outside of the more common questions (dress code, work from home abilities, hours/holidays, team outings, etc.), I think it is helpful to ask less obvious queries. This will help you gain a true understanding of the culture. A great way to do this is by asking “What is the average tenure of employees at your company?” A company with a strong corporate culture, that values employee development and success, is directly correlated to low turnover year over year.

Another helpful line of questioning is asking the interviewers what they specifically like the most about working at the company. Is it a collaborative environment? Is there proper training and an open-door policy among executives, middle management and entry-level employees? What opportunities for career growth does the company offer for someone like you?

When you want to evaluate corporate culture, it’s vital that you don’t let the important questions about the working environment, career growth potential and team dynamics be overshadowed by promises of onsite happy hours and free gym memberships.

Sarah Connors | Human Resources

When assessing corporate culture, you’ll want several pieces of information to get an accurate picture. If the interviewer says, “we’re family friendly,” that could mean they have great paternity/maternity leave, flexible hours, remote work, on-site day care and bring your child to work days. However, it could also mean they like to say “family friendly” but haven’t fleshed out what that means to them. Be sure to dig deep and ask for examples when something is important to you.

If the interviewer says, “we’re all about teamwork,” then ask for examples on what that means to them. Do teams make every decision? That could be great or… that could feel like a long process when you want to get something done quickly. Or do they mean they have fun team competitions a few times each year to build engagement?

Additionally, does the company have great perks like unlimited PTO, free catered lunches, an annual trip, an awards program, volunteer opportunities, a wellness program and fun events? You typically spend 40+ hours a week at your job, so you want to make sure the corporate culture aligns with what will make you feel at home.

Michaela Burns | Finance, Human Resources & Administrative

It can be tricky to know how to evaluate corporate culture, especially since you’re going to be sold on the highlights during the interview process. Some of the data points I advise my candidates to seek out, that aren’t as apparent as free perks or health benefits, include:

  • Average employee tenure – As Liz pointed out above, tenure is a great point to assess culture. A company can have all the free perks and snacks in the kitchen, but is this somewhere that employees cultivate a career? You should always feel comfortable asking HR during an interview, “what is your average employee tenure?”
  • Career progression – You can go onto LinkedIn and search for employees who work at the company. Look at some of the profiles and see how often people are promoted. Do you see the upward mobility? Does the company showcase employee achievements on their social pages? Do the employees post positive stories about working at the organization?
  • Community engagement – Is this a company that gives back? Do they take time to volunteer or connect employees with opportunities? This can speak volumes about the type of person that they are trying to attract.

Tonya Salerno | Finance, Human Resources & Administrative

Company culture to me is defined as the values set forth by an organization that influence the way people interact with one another. It defines purpose and drives expectations among its employees. When interviewing, look for insight into how a company and its employees respect you as a candidate. Did the company confirm your application and acknowledge your candidacy in a timely fashion? Did your meetings start on time? How did the representatives engage with you and did they make an effort to really get to know you? Did they give you and others in attendance ample opportunity to speak?

Employee engagement also shapes corporate culture. This can be seen through many company-wide events, committees or engagement toward one’s goals or the group’s goals.  What does the organization do to support this?

Another important value is trust, which can be seen through remote cultures, approval ratings of management and how a team problem solves a conflict.

Whichever questions you ask, it’s vital to explore corporate culture during the interview process. Having a positive work experience goes far beyond the day-to-day tasks you will be performing and you want to ensure that the company’s culture is aligned with what’s important to you. By using some of the tips included here, you will be well on your way to uncovering what your new company truly values.

Photo credit: Pascal Swier on Unsplash

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