Diverse, inclusive, and welcoming. They’re all adjectives you’d love to use to describe the company culture of the next place you work.
But—let’s face it—getting the scoop on an organization before you actually accept an offer isn’t always so easy. Much like job seekers, employers tend to put their best foot forward during the hiring process, which can make it tough to get a feel for what being part of the team would really be like.
Fortunately, there’s one opportunity you have to do some detective work, see behind the reception desk, and discover more about the overall vibe in the office: your job interview.
Yes, that in-person meeting is the perfect chance to determine whether or not that company culture will be a good fit for you. But how exactly can you figure that out? Here’s how to get the inside information you need.
1. Be Selective
The process of finding a company that’s a match for you actually begins well before you show up for that interview.
When job hunting, it can be tempting to subscribe to a “more is more” philosophy. You fire off application after application in hopes of getting something to stick. But, if culture is important to you (and it really should be!), then you’ll need to be more selective about where you’re applying.
Before pressing “send” on that tailored resume of yours, do some research to see if this seems like the sort of place you’d really enjoy working. Read through the company's website and social media profiles to see how the team members present themselves. Do you see diversity among their employees? Have they taken a stand on issues that are important to you? Is their social presence pretty buttoned up or, are hilarious pictures of their annual company chili cook-off, fair game?
You can also check out employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor but, be forewarned that those should always be taken with a grain of salt. Much like in restaurants, people are often more inclined to share complaints over compliments.
2. Pay Attention
When you arrive at the office for your interview, one of the best things you can do is to pay close attention to everything that’s happening around you. Consider it like going undercover—except there’s no need for you to don hat and sunglasses. This is one the few chances you get to witness how people act while at work, so use it to your advantage.
Do you notice that people are mingling, joking, or collaborating? Or, does everybody appear to keep to themselves? If you have more than one person in your meeting, how do they interact with one another? Do they seem to have a friendly bond or, does it seem strictly professional?
Some of this can be tricky to pick up on, particularly when you’re so focused on not bombing the interview. But, when in doubt, trust that gut feeling you get when you walk into the office. It’s sort of like buying a house—your intuition will usually let you know when a place just feels right.
3. Ask Thoughtful Questions
The portion of the conversation when you get to ask your own questions will be the most revealing when it comes to company culture—particularly if you ask the right things.
From finding out how the organization supports employees to how management deals with conflicts, you can learn a lot about what life is like in the office by asking thought-provoking questions (and—bonus!—doing so will show that you’re engaged in the hiring process).
So, what sorts of questions should you ask your interviewer? The options are almost endless, but here are a few good ones to discover more about the culture:
-What’s your favorite part about working here?
-How would you describe the dynamics of your team?
-How are decisions made when there’s conflict or disagreement?
-Can you tell me more about your process for giving and receiving feedback?
Of course, company culture is complex, and these really only scratch the surface. However, asking even just a few questions will illuminate different aspects of the work environment that you may not have picked up on in your other research and observations.
You spend the better part of your week at work, so you’d ideally like to find a company culture that suits you, your values, and your goals.
Think that’s easier said than done? Think again. You just need to know what to look for and what to ask during your interview. Keep these three tips in mind, and you’re one step closer to finding an office where you feel right at home.
Photo of people working in an office courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author
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