A company asks you to interview for a position that interests you. You put your best foot forward, answer questions to the best of your ability, and hope that you made the right impression. Shortly after, the hiring manager calls you back saying you got the job—congrats! Now all you have to do is sign on the dotted line and pick out what you’ll wear on the first day.
Stop. Take a deep breath. Yes, this is awesome. But now the ball’s in your court. Sure the company likes you, but do you like the company? Emphasis on the word company—not position. No matter how much you’ll love your daily to-do list, if you don’t like the organization, your experience is going to be rough. And, why make the 40+ hours you’ll spend there each week rough?
So, it’s now you who should do some digging to make sure it’s the right fit. If you’re unsure of where to start, think about these five key factors.
1. The Physical Space
There are two important questions you need to ask yourself right now. The easy one: What kind of space do you work in now? The thinker: Do you like it?
If you thrive in a cubicle (no shame!), you should think twice before moving into an open office. This is not to say you should turn it down, but you should ask the current employees there if it’s OK to put on headphones, as well as if there are quiet spaces to work. Likewise, if you prefer being able to see your co-workers and you’re moving to an office full of walls, ask how people communicate. Are there frequent meetings? Are people really active in chatrooms to the point that it feels like you’re all working at one large table?
Along with your seating, think about communal areas as well. If you’re looking for a collaborative team, make sure there are spaces that encourage that. Alternatively, if you can’t sit in one place all day, keep an eye out for couches, stand-up desks, or the like. You’d be shocked by how much you can learn by just asking for a walking tour of the office.
Transparency is more than the optics of the place you work in, it’s about access to information. Ask yourself: Are you comfortable with the level of info that you receive in your current position? Would your job have been easier—or would you have performed differently—if you had known more?
There’s no one right answer. I’ve worked at both types of companies, and here’s what I learned: When you don’t know the company’s big-picture goals, it allows you to really delve in deep and focus only on what you and your team need to be doing. So, there’s less stress around actively making sure the company’s on track to hit some numerical goal.
When you do have more information about the organization’s goals, you get away from the nitty-gritty of a to-do list and instead think about how your job fits into the company’s strategy. So on days when you feel like you’re doing the same-old, same-old, you can take a step back and remember that you’re helping to drive the bottom line.
Now’s the time to think about what motivates you. Is it working toward small goals or larger ones?
Almost every interviewer has asked me if I like the idea of teamwork. No brainer, right? They want you to say yes. But how collaboration happens varies greatly from one company to another. Ask yourself: Do you like working with others on a project from start to finish or do you prefer to be accountable for your own work?
Over time, success metrics have very much shifted away from an “I” mentality to a “we” mentality. The pro to this is that in order to be productive, drive results, and take strategy to the next level, it’s helpful to work dynamically with others. The con? Relying on coming to a consensus among a group can greatly slow things down and take longer to get those results.
I’ve been in roles where my work was reliant on only me—meaning I got it done faster and got all the credit (or blame). Other times, when I’ve worked in a team, it’s taken longer—but I learned a fair amount from my colleagues along the way.
4. Continual Learning
You’re never done learning no matter how far you get from your college years. With that said, not all companies prioritize professional development.
So, if you’re someone who likes working in an environment that pushes you to continue learning (and, if you’re someone who knows you need that push), find out where this company falls on the spectrum. The options can range from tuition reimbursement programs to on-site courses to a lax policy toward taking days off to attend a conference.
Early on in my career, I took Hindi and economic classes at a university in the evening. The classes weren’t crucial to my job, but the fundamentals I learned still help me to this day. Now, I look for companies that encourage me to take similar opportunities.
The last and most fun part to discuss: Perks! I’ll issue my disclaimer up front: I’ve worked at places that had personal concierge services and three meals a day. While all of these are nice to have, I learned that if I don’t love my job, none of these perks matter much.
But, if you’re given a list to entice you to say yes, here’s what you should think about (and a warning, I’m about to play devil’s advocate):
- What will actually make my life better or easier? Free snacks are great, but if you’re a health fiend, will endless bags of chips in the kitchen make you happy in the long run?
- What will result in better work-life balance? Company masseuses are awesome, but are they there to keep you relaxed when you’re working late for the 19th day in a row? Likewise, discounted gym memberships don’t sound as fancy as a state-of-the-art gym in the office. However, does the in-house gym imply that the company values your health, or that you should spend more time at the office?
- Unlimited vacation days sound great on the surface, but how many days are employees typically taking? Is there pressure not to take too many?
I’m not recommending that you dismiss all perks, but to think through them carefully and what they mean for you.
As you can tell, there’s way more to consider than just the job position. It’s important for you to evaluate what’s important to you and then see how that fits into the company you’re interested in joining. The more comfortable you are in an environment, the faster you will succeed!