Joining a company with the wrong culture can waste your lifetime.
It can make you deal each day with people that you do not want to deal with, it can make you feel under pressure most of the time, and can make you work for 9, 10 or even 12 working hours each day and mess up your private life without even feeling appreciated or moving forward.
Not only this, bad company culture can push each employee to focus on his or her own interest instead of working as a team.
And all these things can impact you financially and can damage you emotionally and psychologically inside the company that you are working for and outside the company.
So how to determine if a company culture is fitting you or not before even deciding to join this company or how to find clues that can help you in making an educated decision during the interviewing phase?
That’s what we will answer in this article as I will share with you 5 things that you can do before you apply for a new job to determine if the company culture is right for you or not, and I will share with you also some tips that you can use during the interview and even after the interview.
Let’s face it, you spend more than one-third of your life at work. You even spend time there more than the time that you spend with your family. So, you really need to make sure that your life is being spent in the right place and within the right people.
But let us first start by understanding what company culture means. Company culture refers to the set of beliefs and behaviors of the employees and management inside a company.
So, for you to choose the company with the right culture, you have first to define your own personal beliefs, behaviors, and values and what you stand for.
If you believe in teamwork, and your main values are transparency, respect, and honesty for example, then you must search for a company fostering and supporting these beliefs and values or else you will never feel happy.
Several years ago, a friend of mine came and told me ‘’what is the benefit of searching for a company with a good culture if every job will make you feel stressed, and you will face problems and conflicts anyway?’’
And I answered him by saying ‘’Yes you are right. Every company and even every job has its own problems, stress, and conflicts, but this is not the main problem. The main problem is when the problems, stress, and conflicts are against your values and beliefs. Because in this case, you will not survive even if you are earning a lot of money. For example, if you believe in teamwork and you got hired in a team which does not contain team players, you will never feel happy or fulfilled. Or if your values are transparency and honesty and you see your management all the time hiding information from you. So, the main issue is not in the problems and stress that you face at work, the main issue is in the type of problems and if they are confronting your beliefs and values or not. That’s what really matters.’’
The same is in marriage, you can get married 2 times for example. But even though there were conflicts in both marriages (which is normal by the way), the first marriage lasted 1 year and the second lasted forever.
And the reason for this is that in the first marriage the main values were different and that’s why your actions and your spouse’s actions were hurting each other’s core values and you were not able to tolerate each other. While in the second marriage, the main values were more similar and that’s why even though there were conflicts you were able to ignore them and to tolerate each other because they were not harming the main values.
That’s why determining your values and beliefs is the first step, then you can search for a company that is aligned with your values and beliefs.
But here is one thing that I want to warn you about.
Most people close their eyes and neglect the company culture even if they know that it’s not a good one for two reasons: either because they received a tempting offer with a huge paycheck, or because they are in a phase of their lives where they must find a job as fast as possible, like directly after graduation or when losing a job. Here, people tend to search and accept the fastest job offer that they receive. Which can solve them a temporary problem now, but they can suffer later especially if they do not take corrective actions.
Now we laid the foundation and we are ready to move to the next step.
So, you found a good job opening online and you want to apply, here are the 5 things that you can do before applying for a job.
1-The Job Opening Language.
Usually, the job opening is written by the direct manager especially the part of the job tasks and requirements. So, first, focus on the language used and repeated words. Are there any words that are repeated more than one time and can indicate something?
Second, focus on ‘’working under pressure’’ sentence in the requirements. This can be a clear indication already of what you should expect.
Third, focus on the word ‘’flexibility’’ and if there will be traveling required or not. The problem is not in traveling, the problem is in the amount of time that you will spend traveling.
Fourth, watch out from the job requirements that are too long and detailed. This most probably means one of two things: either they are under huge pressure and cannot tolerate a wrong hiring decision, or either they hired someone previously and this person appeared to be the wrong person from their point of view and left, and that’s why they want to be as detailed and clear as possible to get the right one this time.
Of course, you will never know the reason why this person left, but it can be because of something that he saw and did not like related to how the company works or related to the internal culture.
2- Check the company reviews and employees’ opinions online.
Go to websites like Glassdoor, indeed and Kununu and check what the current employees or former employees wrote as the pros and cons of working for this company. Scroll and read not less than 20 reviews and keep an eye on the repeated cons.
3- Check the company’s values, vision and mission statements.
Go to the company website and check what they wrote as their values and vision. It will be good to know if their values are generally aligned with yours or not. However, keep in mind that even if they look aligned, this is not a guarantee that what they wrote on their website is being applied inside the company itself.
I know companies that if you read their values you can cry from how much they can impact you emotionally. You may even feel that you want to work for them for free. But later, when you join them, you discover that these were just words written on their website.
4- Check the Reputation of the CEO and the President.
This step will be very easy if the company that you want to join is big and its updates are all over the news. Because with a small search you can find a lot of information about the company leaders and you can even find their social media profiles and learn a lot about them.
And here is one thing that you have to keep in mind. As a rule, If the behavior or attitude of the head of the company is not good, then the company culture will not be good. If his or her behavior is not good, then he or she will choose executives who are similar in behavior and hence the company atmosphere will not be ideal to achieve career growth and success.
5- Send some of their current or former employees on LinkedIn and ask them.
On LinkedIn, you can find a lot of people working at the same company. You can send them either a message or add them to your network and then start a discussion with them.
Make your main goal is to try to find contacts who were working at this company previously and now they are working for another company. They will be more open to sharing with you their thoughts and opinions. However, if you can only find current employees, then it's o.k also.
Even more, if the job opening that you found was already available on LinkedIn, you will find LinkedIn automatically informing you if you have a contact within your network who is working there, or they can show you a contact who can act as a middle person and introduce you to someone there.
After finding some contacts, choose 2 or 3 contacts and start opening a discussion with them. The contacts that you choose must be working in the same company location or were working there but it's not a must to choose them all from the same team or department.
When opening the discussion and asking questions, take care that the situation may be sensitive to the contacts who are still working there and maybe they will be conservative or give you neutral answers. That’s why avoid asking straight forward questions such as ‘’Is the company good or bad? Or is this manager good or not?’’
For example, after mentioning the name of the opened position to your contact person, most probably he or she will start linking it to the right manager in his head. So, you can ask questions such as ‘’Describe this manager to me.’’ Or ‘’What does he like the most about his team members?’’ or ‘’If this manager has to choose an employee to work on his team, what will be the main skill, character trait or requirement that he or she will be searching for?’’
You can also ask about the work balance and if they have a lot of work pressure in this team or not.
These are questions that are not hard to answer and will not make your contact person conservative.
Now, you made this check and found out that the results are promising. So, you applied for the job and got invited for an interview. What should you do?
When you are at the company on the day of the interview, keep an eye on these things:
-How people look like in the smoking area. Do they look demotivated & tired or smiley and energetic?
-How many people are eating on their desks? Eating on the desk can be an indication that they are under pressure and have no time to go anywhere.
-How do people look like in the restaurant? Do they look demotivated & tired or smiley and energetic?
-Are there any signs of teamwork? or each person seems to be very busy focusing only on the task in hand?
-What is the general atmosphere looking like?
And during the interview, ask your interviewer the following questions:
-Why is this position empty? Is it empty because it’s a new opening and because of the workload? Or is it because someone left? and if someone left, why did he or she left?
-Ask a straight forward question in the interview about what is expected from you as an employee.
After you finish the interview and If you had your interview in the afternoon, then try to stay around the company location until after 5:00 pm or until the end of the official working hours, and check how many cars are still in the parking space. If the number of cars is huge, then you can have an indication about how long you may need to work each day inside this company.
If you found that everything seems o.k and you got an offer and you accepted it, then compare your assumptions to the real working days and see how it really looks like during the probation period or during the first few months in general. And if you found out that you made a wrong move, then correct it immediately.
I know that these tips can be a lot of tips to do. And maybe you are saying to yourself ‘’Why should I bother? I just want to apply for as many positions as I can and this will delay the process of applying a lot.’’
But if you think carefully, and remembered that you are now in the process of choosing a company that you can spend your next 10 or even 20 years working for, and if you remembered that you will spend there more than one third of your day and that your emotions and general mood will not only impact you at work but will also impact your family when you go back home, you will find that doing this culture check is nothing compared to the price that you will pay if you joined the wrong company and for any reasons you decided to stay there.
I hope that you found the content of this article useful.
Now it is your turn. Share with me your opinions in the comments section below and tell me ‘’did I forget any other thing that you would love to mention? Or do you have any questions that you want me to answer?’’
Share with me your thoughts and wait for the next article.