Tips For Identifying Corporate
Culture And Your Fit
Nimish Thakkar, MS, MBA,
CCMC, CPRW, SaiCareers.com,
January 04, 2006
All of us
are unique, they say, and so are organizations. Every company, though
comprised of diverse individuals, adheres to a certain common pattern
for conducting routine business activities and for making internal
decisions. While experts differ on the exact definition of corporate
culture, this general behavioral thread running through the company is
probably the simplest indicator of its corporate culture, a culture
that is uniquely its own.
Of what importance could corporate culture possibly be to a job
seeker? Well, most workers spend almost 10–12 hours at work; corporate
culture affects employees at multiple levels, including work
arrangements, work hours, dress codes, professional development,
promotions, values, compensation, environment, etc.
Identifying a company’s culture, however, is often challenging. We
have outlined a few tips and resources to help you with the process:
Researching information about the company is
the first step in identifying corporate culture. Our company research
section features a wealth of resources for this purpose. The resources
range from industry associations to news stories and press releases,
all of which provide valuable information about the company’s culture.
If you are currently interviewing, the
interviewer may be able to offer several tips about the company’s
culture. Some of these tips may be express statements, while others
are ones you need to observe and decipher. Depending on the
interviewer’s personality and the level of comfort you establish, you
may be able to ask the following questions:
What is a typical career path for someone starting from my position?
How are people promoted? (Look for patterns.)
Will I be expected to work with teams or alone? (Helps determine the
company’s work environment.)
What professional development programs are offered to employees? (What
is the pattern here? Is it leadership? hands-on skills development?
overall development? The answers will give you an indication of what
the company values in its employees.)
What benefits does the company offer? (Sometimes, the benefits may
include free gym membership or flexible work hours.)
While asking questions to the interviewer, don’t ever give the
impression that you don’t like the responses. Always sound
enthusiastic about the answers, irrespective of what you personally
In addition to the discussion, you should also be on the lookout for
clues, such as the interviewer’s personality, the kind of questions
being asked (is the interviewer following a pattern?), the level of
involvement, dress, communication style, etc. Be careful, though,
don’t judge the entire company based on just one interview.
Speaking with key individuals
In addition to the interviewer,
you may also have the opportunity to speak with -- or know -- other
individuals within the organization. Such individuals could include
employees, recruiters, vendors, customers, contractors, etc. The
receptionist may also be a very helpful resource for understanding the
If someone in your network works at the company or knows someone
within the company, you may have the opportunity to ask the following
How would you describe the company’s culture?
What is a typical workday or workweek like?
What would you say about the work environment here?
What are the most important values?
How easy is it to communicate with senior management?
What do you like the most about this company? least?
Visual cues (onsite)
If you are observant enough, and have the
opportunity to visit the company (arrive early, please), you will spot
trends based on visual cues. How do the employees interact with each
other? How are they dressed? Do they look happy? Are they friendly? In
addition to the people, the décor and ambience may also provide
several clues about the culture. How is the office layout? Is it
conservative? fun? What paintings do you see? Do employees work in
cubicles? Where are the offices of senior management? Do employees
have family pictures on their desk? What screen savers do you see? Get
the point? Keep your eyes wide open.
Be careful, though, sometimes visual cues may be misleading so don’t
jump to a quick conclusion. Carefully deliberate on everything you
The company’s website
The company’s website, especially the
careers page, will provide several clues about its culture. In
addition to the careers page, the company’s website may provide
What does their mission statement say?
Most mission statements provide clues about the company’s vision,
policies, and driving principles. You may also be able to review their
products or projects (on their website, catalog, annual report, etc.)
Are the projects and products based on a long-term perspective or do
they appear to be short-term investments? Is there a trend?
Voicemails and e-mails
The tone of employees’ voice mails and
e-mails can often provide great insight about the culture. E-mail
addresses, signatures, and writing style may reflect the company’s
personality. Do they use just first names in the e-mail address? How
is the e-mail’s tone? Again, don’t judge based on just one
The recruitment of a C-level executive is
often a great PR story for most companies. Such stories provide the
opportunity to understand how the company works. Example, what did
they choose the new executive for?
Does the company sponsor community events? Does
it work with a certain foundation? You can find this information
either on the company’s website or through the company research
Researching corporate culture can often be a challenging and time
consuming process, a process that requires thorough research, astute
observation, and careful deliberation. Nevertheless, it is very
important to understand a potential employer’s culture; after all,
work, just like marriage, is always about the “right fit.”
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We hope you enjoyed
the following article: "Tips For Identifying Corporate Culture
And Your Fit."