Figuring Out “Fit” - How to Uncover Company Culture During a Job Interview
When you’re comparing nearly identical job duties, what separates a job you like versus one you loathe is typically company culture. The definition of company culture boils down to “how things are done around here.” It encompasses everything from how leadership treats employees to whether or not you can wear headphones while you work or snack at your desk. Fitting into a company culture is a major part of your success - no matter how much you excel or enjoy the work, it can be draining to clash with a company’s mission or day-to-day inner workings. Asking about these type of topics during a job interview can help you gain some insight into a company’s culture:
- Career Growth
How employees are supported in their professional development can tell you a lot about their culture. You can ask if internal promotions are common, if employees opt to stay and advance their careers, or if there's mentorship or other professional development opportunities. If you're ambitious and want to grow within a company, carefully consider indicators of career growth.
- Company Values
The core values of a company influence its objectives and the roles of its employees. Research the company's mission statement and ask how the position supports it. This can help you figure out what is most valued, such as innovation, customer service, stability, or profits, and if your own values align with it.
Find out how feedback is given and received by an employer. A lack of feedback given to employees is frustrating because you may not know where you stand, while employers who aren't open to feedback from employees likely don't show respect in other ways as well.
If work-life balance is especially important at this stage in your career, a company culture that emphasizes flexible work arrangements is crucial for you. Pay close attention to anything the interviewer has to say about scheduling, working remotely, or how time off requests are handled to get a sense of their overall flexibility.
- Employer Branding
Give the employer an opening to promote the company culture by asking the hiring manager, "What are the best things about working for Company XYZ?" Take note of not just the response itself, but how passionate the manager seems as he or she communicates it to you.
- Success Traits
Company culture may dictate that certain employee personality traits are held to more esteem than others. Personality traits that may have served you well in previous jobs may not necessarily help you get ahead at others. Ask about what personality traits have separated good employees from the really great ones, and consider how you would measure up. For example, being able to get along well with others may not serve you well at a place where being competitive and cutthroat is necessary for success.
- Work Environment
Carefully observe your potential workspace if the employer gives you a tour, or ask about the environment during the interview. Open floor plans, sharing desks, being isolated from other employees, a noisy atmosphere, etc. - these may make a difference in your day-to-day happiness at your job.
- Team Relationships
The people you work alongside can make up a significant part of the sub-culture within a company. While there's obviously no guarantees if you will get along with your coworkers, whether or not the employer prioritizes team building can help predict the likelihood of having a supportive environment. Bring up the topic of team building, or ask how members of a department interact.
When in doubt, there's nothing wrong with outright asking the hiring manager what the company's culture is like. You may not get the most straightforward response, but it can give you an idea if you even somewhat align with it or are a blatant mismatch.
No matter how much you are drawn to a job description or company name, you will not be happy in the long term if you don’t align with the company culture. Prioritize learning about company culture in job interviews, so your “dream job” on paper doesn’t end up being a nightmare for you if hired.