How to Tell if a Company’s Culture Is Right for You

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Whether you’re trying to find internships in college or land a better job, company culture should be high on your list of things to look for in your next opportunity — perhaps even higher than a paycheck. Why is company culture so important, you might ask? Because while decent pay and work benefits are nice, those things by themselves probably won’t make you happy in the long-term. A strong company culture can make you feel happier, less stressed and more productive at work. Conversely, a bad company culture can make even a 12-week internship feel like an absolute eternity.

If you don’t want to get stuck in a work slog, finding a good company culture fit should be your top priority in your job search. But how do you determine if a company’s culture is right for you? Below, here are a few ways to find out whether the company culture will be a good fit.

Be Introspective

First, look inward. What do you value in the workplace? Think about your previous jobs and internships you’ve held. In which environments were you the most productive and happy? What made it such a great place to work?

If you’re applying for your first job or internship, consider how you worked best at school. Did you prefer to work alone in the library where it was quiet? Or did you thrive in a group setting where you could bounce ideas off other people?

Also, think about what makes you happy in life. If you love learning, you might want to look for a company that values mentorship and employee advancement. If you want to feel accomplished and make a difference, consider looking for a company that values advancement and innovation.

Do Your Research

Now, it’s time to do your homework on the company. Start by checking out the company’s website and reading their mission statement. Make note of the company’s values if they have them listed and compare them with your own values.

Then, move onto their social media channels. Look through their posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or wherever they have a social media presence. These posts can give you a glimpse inside the company without actually setting foot in the office.

Reading through company reviews on Glassdoor is also a great way to get the inside scoop on a company’s culture (or lack thereof). Just be careful to avoid writing off a good company based on one bad review. Look for consistency in the reviews. If multiple people say that the workplace is toxic, apply somewhere else.

Ask the Right Questions During the Interview

You’ve landed yourself an interview — that’s great! Now, you’re probably thinking about how you might answer some of the most common internship interview questions. But remember, interviews are a two-way street. This is a great opportunity to flip the script and ask the interviewer about company culture.

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Here are a few thought-provoking questions that will help you learn more about the company’s culture before you accept the offer:

  • How would you describe the work environment here?
  • Can you tell me about the last team event you did together?
  • How has the company changed since you started working here?
  • Do coworkers hang out outside the office?
  • How do you help people learn new things?
  • How do you recognize important employee milestones and achievements?

Pay Attention to the Office Vibe

When you go in for an interview, try to look for clues in the office that could give you hints about the company’s culture. For instance, what are the employees wearing? (A casual dress code indicates a more relaxed work environment.) Are people listening to music or is it quiet? What kinds of artwork or photographs are hanging up?

If the office is on the larger side, the interviewer may invite you to take an office tour. This is a great opportunity to look for additional clues and get the inside scoop on the company’s culture.

While you’re walking around the office, pay close attention to how employees interact with each other. What types of meetings are taking place? Do they seem positive and upbeat or negative and grumpy?

Tip: If possible, try to schedule your interview towards the end of the day to get a better sense of the company’s work-life balance. If people are packing up and going home, this is generally a good sign.

Get in Touch with Former Employees

Another highly effective way to get the inside scoop on the company’s culture is by getting in touch with those who have behind-the-scenes knowledge of the company. For this, you’ll need to leverage your existing network. Start by identifying people who may have had experience with the company, such as lawyers, consultants, contractors, etc. Send them a polite email explaining that you’re trying to get the complete picture of the company and would love their feedback.

If you have a friend who is a former employee of the company you’re applying to, even better. Invite them out for coffee and ask them questions, such as, “What challenges did the company face?” and “What things does the company do well?” At the very least, their answers could provide knowledge that will be useful to you later down the road.

The Bottom Line

Every company has a culture, whether it was consciously created or not. However, not every company culture is going to be the right fit for you. By leveraging these tips and doing a little digging, you can find a company that you’ll truly love working for.

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