Before accepting a job offer, we often spend a lot of time learning about the organization’s structure, compensation and benefits plan, job responsibilities, and so on. But a very important — yet often overlooked — aspect of working for a company is the organizational culture. Would you be able to thrive in its environment and work culture? What do you even know about it?
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When you are being hired, your interviewer does try and gauge your organizational fit. “Culture-fit,” or lack thereof, is also cited as one of the most important reasons candidates are not hired, in spite of amazing credentials. But even if your interviewer is checking out how you fit into the organization’s culture, it’s your job to figure out how the work environment and culture fit into your priorities. So start from there — list out what you would absolutely need in your work place.
While it is difficult to evaluate the work environment and value system from outside the organization, stay tuned to pick out cues that could help.
Before the Interview:
Check out the company website: What is the impression that you get from the site? Is it all business, or do they also talk about the people that work there? Many organizations now have staff interviews posted on their sites. While these are predominantly for advertising and attracting talent, it’s a good place to start. Check out the annual report of the company to get a sense of how they are doing.
Stay up-to-date with the news trends concerning the organization: Whether it’s a merger/takeover/expansion, check out what the media has to say, and what the organization’s stance is, and how are they handling any major changes. Sign up for alerts via Google Alerts, Talkwalker, Mention, etc.
During the Interview:
Pay attention to your own feelings: How do you feel in the office premises? Was the receptionist friendly? How is the lobby? Do you feel welcomed and warm or do you feel cold and ignored?
Sense the tone of your interview: Does the interviewer make you feel comfortable or rushed? Is there a personal connection and interest or a rapid-fire volley of questions? Do you have the interviewer’s attention or does he/she constantly gaze at the watch or check the phone?
Ask questions that are important to you: Ask questions like: how often do employees work in teams? Are there peak business seasons? Are there training opportunities to enhance your skills?
Ask about your role: What is expected of the role and what is the impact of the role on the business. Is it a new role or are you replacing someone? Try to diplomatically figure out why the other person is leaving. If you see the hiring manager shifting uneasily, you have a tell — he/she is uncomfortable and the reason the last person is leaving could have something to do with the organization. If the organization has a history of layoffs or is a non-profit operating on funding, try to get a sense of the longevity of your role. If the role does not seem to have a long-term plan or feels like it focuses on one important project, ask what happens after the completion of the project.
Before you accept the offer:
Ask to tour the office: If you couldn’t check out the office before your interview, observe the office and the vibe during the interview.
Take some time to experience the physical layout of the office. How is the office space? Is there plenty of open space or are the cubicles or offices cut off? By seeing the layout and vibrancy of the office, you get a sense of the work culture. Are employees chatting with each other or is each doing his/her own thing? What is the dress code? If the office is too open for your comfort, you can also ask if there are personal spaces or breakout areas or conference rooms where you could take time off or work in seclusion. If the space is too restrictive, find out where and if the employees socialize. If you can, check out the office in the evening, after business hours to see if people are still working. If they are, you know what to expect.
Ask to talk to your future colleagues. Connect with them formally and if possible, informally. Do they seem interested and engaged in their roles? Do they talk about their work excitedly? Is it a diverse team?
Ask about your on-boarding plan: Do they have one? This is also an opportunity to sound curious and interested in joining the organization. You’ll get a feel for how much of settling-in time you will have before you hit the ground running. A structured on-boarding plan means they are prepared for your arrival and want you to succeed.
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