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3 Ways to Assess Company Culture — Before You Accept the Job

Company culture

Hey there, job-seeker! We see you scouring dozens of company websites, resume in hand, hoping you’ll find the perfect culture fit. We also see the skepticism in your eyes — everyone says they have a great company culture complete with friendships and free food and #casual dress codes, but how can you know if a company’s culture walk really matches their super-polished talk until you actually experience it firsthand?

We’ll walk you through what we’ve figured out.

1. Evaluate what current employees have to say — and how quickly.

Silhouettes of men and women with speech bubbles

If you ask current employees about their company’s culture, do their eyes light up or do they hesitate before telling you it’s “not bad?” We feel a lot of pressure to love our jobs nowadays, especially if a potential new hire is asking us questions. Hesitation is not a good sign — it might mean that an employee feels unhappy but doesn’t want to express the truth.

If you’re not comfortable flat-out asking “What’s the culture like here?” you can always ask what someone’s favorite part of the workday is. You might get some answers that are role-specific, but you should look to hear plenty of responses about communication and teamwork between coworkers in a healthy environment, too.

2. Gauge how management talks about culture.

Business people management silhouettes

Besides what employees have to say about their workplace’s culture, you should be paying close attention to the way management talks about their company.

Good signs are words like teamwork, collaboration, and growth. Bad signs are an over-the-top focus on perfection or excellence — you want to work for a company that is great at what they do, but you also don’t want to find yourself in an environment where expectations are unreasonable.

Finally, consider this insight that might be a little counterintuitive: If a company talks about their culture or perks and benefits too much, it might be because they’re overcompensating.

Employees and management should be happy to share the fun parts about their jobs, but not to the exclusion of important workplace priorities and initiatives like open communication, collaboration, innovation, and employee growth/development.

3. Do some behind-the-scenes research on your own.

Google reviews, social media, glassdoor logo icons

In 2019, most of us know how to social media stalk a friend’s new date. When you’re looking for a new job, it’s time to do the same thing with your potential employers: use every resource you can find to do some culture research of your own.

Check out company rating websites like Glassdoor to see what anonymous employees say about the work environment, take a look through Google Reviews to monitor public opinion, and scroll through social media channels like Facebook and Instagram to get an unbiased sense of who the company really is.

Local news searches can be enlightening, too — you can see what awards a company has won and what community events they’ve helped sponsor.

And one more thing: consider if there’s flexibility for position changes within the company.

Non linear career path icon

Though important to a long and successful career, traditional upward mobility and promotions aren’t the only things to look for in a potential employer. Sometimes, lateral movements into a different team are just as fulfilling.

One mark of great company culture is a management team that not only says they care about every employee’s interests and long-term goals but actually demonstrates their support through requested position changes.

Don’t get us wrong, no employer will be able to please everyone, all the time… but the good ones will at least take their employees’ preferences into account.

If you find yourself in a project management position but really have a passion for writing, will your bosses be open to a switch into a content role? What if you want to become a developer? Those exact situations have both happened here at TDR, and each time we’ve worked to find the best fit for each team member. 

TL;DR: How do you assess a company’s culture?

Good company culture is tough to trust before you actually start working somewhere. The best thing you can do is ask plenty of questions and hone your sneaky detective skills (cue James Bond theme) to read between the lines of each response.

Talk to current employees, pay attention to the way company management speaks about their culture, conduct some online research of your own, and don’t be afraid to do a lil’ LinkedIn stalking to get an idea of current employees’ career trajectories. 

At the end of the day, job hunting can be a scary world — but it doesn’t have to be. If you keep your standards (and self-worth) high, we promise you’ll find a place to thrive.

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