Dear Job Doctor,
The day to day working culture of an organisation is very important to me. How can I find out what it’s like before joining a new company?
A company’s culture is one of the most important yet most challenging aspects to uncover before accepting a new role. Essentially you are looking for the ‘personality of the company’, meaning the shared values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of the staff.
I would recommend from an early stage of an interview process--at least from the moment you enter the reception area for your first interview--keep your eyes wide open for other visual clues in the office. For example how do the employees interact with you; what does the office portray from a physical aspect; do the staff look happy; do the staff interact with each other well; is it formal or informal, fun, open plan, separate offices?
During the more formal interview process you may be able to observe and discover verbal and physical clues about the culture. The interviewer’s personality, communication style and body language can be good initial indicators, as they are a representative of the overall company and therefore give you an indication of the culture.
However, I would always try and speak with your future direct manager and--depending on seniority--the key members of your team or peer group as part of the overall recruitment process to be sure your key culture questions are answered. Asking specific questions to members of staff--in an interview or informally--may also reveal more.
Also, and importantly, I would encourage you to identify someone in your trusted network who works at the company, or knows someone who does, and ask them for a confidential overview. Ask trusted friends, work colleagues, customers, recruiters, etc, to describe the culture, important values, internal communication style and what employees like most and least about working there: do they know the main reasons for people leaving and joining the organisation?
However it is vital to note that both your own first impressions are not always the right ones, and that your friend/trusted network advice may be very subjective and/or based on a particular personal situation. So don’t draw conclusions too early without a full and objective assessment.
Accepting a new job opportunity can be a life changing choice, take your time to evaluate and consider whether the organisation’s culture fits with ‘your own’ personal style.
Darren Robinson is managing director of Badenoch & Clark Luxembourg, the largest staffing and recruitment firm in the Grand Duchy.
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