How to Determine a Potential Employer's Culture

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2009-08-06 Print this article Print

Understanding if you are a good fit for a job also means knowing how to assess the culture of both a company and the group you will be predominantly working.

How can you figure out culture without working there yet? You need to act a bit like a private investigator and pay attention to details you might not ordinarily notice when the bulk of your efforts are going in to getting the job.

A recent article delves in the subject, talking to experts such as Elaine Varelas, a managing partner of Keystone Partners, a Boston-based career management and executive coaching firm, and Edward Lawler, a professor at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business and author of Talent: Making People Your Competitive Advantage.

Here is their advice (edited down for quick consumption):

1. Read the company's Website. Look for pictures, testimonials and whether there is an employee intranet.

2. Pay attention to the hiring process. Are they nice on the phone? Do they seem relaxed? Do they talk about bureacracy or an open hierarchy?

3. Notice the job surroundings on an interview--look at furniture, clothing of employees, the office space. What kind of computers are they using?

4. Ask about the organizational culture, and ask how long people have worked there. You can get a sense if it's a good place to work if people have been there for some time.

5. Ask about the values of the employer and how they make them work day to day. Also, ask about the management style and how they give feedack to employees.

6. Try to get employee survey information (which is tricky because it can be confidential).

7. Ask about professional development and what is offered for continuing education benefits.

It's advised to understand the difference between a corporate culture and the way a specific manager in a department or team has created their culture.

"Be careful to distinguish between a company culture and a culture that a manager created," Varelas said. "You could have a great manager in a bad company culture, which limits the manager. Or you can have a good company culture and a bad manager." |

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