How to Assess an Employer’s Organizational Culture

Before you accept a job offer, you want to have some idea of what kind of environment you’ll be facing.  It takes a bit of effort, but if you keep your eyes open, you should be able to get an accurate picture.  Look at these clues to help you determine whether or not you would be a good fit for the company:

The job advertisement.  The language used within the job advertisement can give you a good idea of the company’s values.  Pay special attention to words or ideas that are repeated several times.  For example, are you seeing a lot of language related to creativity and innovation?  Or is there more of a focus on teamwork and cooperation?  While this information is often contained in the “About the Company” section, you can find it anywhere in the job description.

Mission and vision statements.   While these statements can be an indication of the company’s ideals, it is important to remember that they don’t always provide an accurate picture of the organizational culture.

Current or past company employees.  The best way to get information about the organizational culture is to talk to people.  Has anyone in your network worked for or worked with the company?  You can even look on LinkedIn to see if you are in a group with anyone who is affiliated with the organization.  They may be willing to answer a few questions over e-mail.  Just remember to always be professional, and don’t take up too much of their time.

The company website.  While the company usually conveys a lot of marketing information on the website, it can also be used to assess the organizational culture.  Do they include photos of special events?  Look at the “About Us” section and see what types of accomplishments the organization promotes.  Also, news articles and press releases that are included on the website will show you how the organization wants to be perceived externally.

The environment.  Whenever you have the opportunity to actually visit the workplace, keep your eyes open.  How are the employees dressed?  How do they interact with each other?  Are they polite and friendly?  Do they talk to the receptionist?  Do they seem relaxed or stressed?  How is the office layout?  Are there pictures on the wall?  How do the employees’ desks look?  Do they have the opportunity to express themselves or is everything very formal?  Your visit to the workplace can give you a lot of clues about the organizational culture.

Your interviewer.  Ask the interviewer about the organizational culture and the company values.  Ask what it’s like to work there.  Most interviewers will be happy to answer these questions and they demonstrate your interest in the position.

The hiring process.  The hiring process itself can give you an idea of how the organization treats its employees.  Have you been treated with respect during the process, or do you feel like you are an unimportant, faceless applicant?  What tone does the employer use when they speak to you?  Does the employer seem genuinely interested in getting to know you?

If you are considering accepting a job at the company, then it’s important that you identify the culture there.  When the values of your employer are vastly different from your own, it causes stress, conflict, and job dissatisfaction.  Picture yourself working at the company and ask yourself, “Could I be happy there?”

(Written by Karen Bivand)

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