How to find the right company culture for you

With a rapidly improving jobs market candidates are starting to enjoy more options when it comes to developing their career than they have experienced for a number of years. So, with candidates facing more career choices both internally and externally, making the right career decision is critical.

We have previously talked about how to handle multiple offers (click here) we want to focus on how to make sure you identify the right cultural fit. Finding an organisation where you “fit” and where your values are aligned is as important as finding a role which has the right scope and challenge.

So, what do you need to consider when identifying whether the culture will be a fit and is it really that important?

Why is it so important to work in a culturally-aligned organisation?

Working in an aligned culture is important on a number of levels.

  • Success – your level of success is likely to be greater in an environment where your style and behaviour are in line with those of the company and its other employees. Being great at your role is sometimes not enough to develop your career. In some cultures it is also about how you do your role and whether you are seen to embody the values and ethics of the business.
  • Happiness – most of us spend the majority of our lives at work and so working in an environment that doesn’t fit and where we don’t enjoy the working environment can have a very negative impact on our happiness. Different organisations have quite different expectations of their employees not only on a professional level but also on a social level. Some cultures are work hard/play hard and this type of environment won’t suit everyone. In a smaller business some of these issues can be magnified and therefore finding the right working environment will have a real impact on our happiness in the workplace.
  • Culture is more than just values – there are lots of definitions out there about culture but ultimately, it is a combination of how a business expects it’s employees to behave and work and how it treats them in response. It is about style and expectations. There are a lot of elements to consider when determining whether you think it is the right fit for you.
  • Horses for courses – often people assume that there are good cultures and bad cultures and that Google and Facebook are the best companies to work for in the world. Google has a fantastic culture but the point is that their culture won’t suit everyone. Yes, there are generic elements that make companies a good place to work but many elements of a culture are much more personal. For some people, joining a highly sociable business where the expectation is that you are out socialising with colleagues all the time is fantastic but for others it just doesn’t suit their lifestyle. When trying to assess a culture it has to be in the context of what is right for you as an individual.

 

What cultural factors do you need to think about?

Here are some of the factors which affect culture and whether someone will fit in:

 

  • Social Life – are you looking for a highly social culture or one where there is much greater separation? What are the organisation’s expectations of activity outside of working hours?
  • Behaviours – what drives the culture and the people in it? How professional or fun is it (these needn’t be mutually exclusive!)?
  • Environment – do you feel you fit best in a highly structured, corporate, political environment or more so in an open, creative, unstructured environment?
  • Working patterns – what are the organisation’s expectations? Is there the freedom to work at home? Does the business have a long hours culture or expect you to undertake a significant amount of travel? Does it have reasonable expectations of its people?
  • Office – do you want a loud, social and open plan office environment or one with closed offices and very individual ways of working?

Again, it all comes back to what you believe is going to be right for you and the next step is to try and find out more about an organisation’s culture.

How to research a company’s culture?

Some would argue that the time to research the company is before you even make an application, saving you and others time if it is clearly not going to be a good fit. Whether it is part of your pre-application or indeed pre-interview research, it is really important that you conduct as much research as possible to understand culturally what the organisation is like to work for. There is a wealth of information out there for you to review prior to your interview.

  • Social Media – the rise of social media has significantly increased our accessibility to information about organisations. By looking at companies on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter you can gain a really useful insight into the attitude of the company and how it interacts with its customers and employees.
  • Glassdoor – this is a site that we use and is a great way to gain an insight into what it is really like to work for an organisation. It has a number of different features but in essence, it is a review site of organisations.   Clearly most organisations will have some negative reviews from disgruntled employees looking to leave but you can read between the lines to understand more about the realities of working in their culture.
  • Company website – an organisation’s website is a good indicator about how they want to be perceived in the market. It will give you some good information around size, market focus etc. It should also give you an insight into their strategy and goals. The point I would make here is that this is just a shop window; this is how they want themselves to be viewed and in some cases may be quite different from the reality of working for the company.
  • Backgrounds of other employees – using LinkedIn to identify the backgrounds of the other people working in the business/department/team may give you further insight. What type of businesses and cultures have they worked in previously and do they seem to employ like- minded people?
  • Use your network – do you know anybody that currently or has previously worked for the business? In some circumstances, confidentiality may prevent you from reaching out but in most cases you will be able to speak to people to find out the realities of working for the organisation. My word of caution here is that, of course, their overall perception will be governed by the extent to which the culture suited them personally however again, this is another tool that will help you build a greater understanding.

 

What to ask at an interview to understand a company’s culture?

 

  • Ask direct questions about the culture. Most interviews will of course try and be as positive as possible because they are trying to sell the opportunity however you will still be able to read between the lines and pick up some additional information about how the organisation works.
  • Ask about reward and personal development. This will give you a good indication as to its philosophy on people and how they are treated. How much investment does it make in its people?
  • Ask about leadership style in the business? Is the culture very direct and results driven or perhaps more values-led? What style will suit you best?
  • Ask about the company’s values and objectives – does the interviewer know them? Are they just written on a poster somewhere or is it the real DNA that determines how the business works day to day.
  • See for yourself -attending an interview gives you a great opportunity to get a true sense of the working environment. Not only from a physical perspective i.e. how it is laid out but also from in terms of its vibe and feel? Are people chatting? Is the energy positive or negative? Although this is only an insight, it will build upon the picture you are building.

 

Due Diligence

Making the effort throughout the recruitment process to really understand an organisation’s culture and how the reality may differ from perception will greatly assist you in making the right career decisions. Going for team drinks is another way to try and find out the “real” culture of the business, this will give you the best possible feel for the personality of the people you will be working with.

Making the right decision

As I have discussed the first part has to be about understanding what is important to you as an individual and what style of working will suit you best. Once you understand this you can better assess potential employers doing the necessary due diligence discussed above to see how well you will really fit into the organisation’s culture.

Being successful is hard work for everyone but find yourself in the wrong culture and the odds are steeply against you. In reality, it will be very difficult to find a company culture that is totally aligned however it should be achievable to find one where your values can co-exist. Finding a culture where your values, beliefs and ways of working are in some way aligned should make for a much happier, rewarding and successful employment.

 
 

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