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How to Determine Company Culture When Applying for a Job

Tuesday | October 10, 2017 | by Susan Ranford

Creative business people meeting in conference room

Company culture is a complex subject that is important to consider when deciding where you want to work. In the simplest terms, company culture is a combination of the beliefs, values, goals, community, environment, and anything else that guides the general ethos of a business.

Some companies keep their cultures very formal. People dress in suits, use corporate buzzwords when communicating, and everyone is there for business and nothing else. Some companies keep it more informal. Everyone has a goal in mind, but they aren’t afraid to have some fun along the way.

Depending on what type of worker you are, you will be more attracted to a particular culture. Culture is something you can determine while you are applying for a job, if you know the signs and where to find them—use this guide to learn how.

Do Your Research

Perhaps the easiest way to figure out the culture of the company you are applying to is to look it up. You should find their website, which can often provide a view into the company to learn more.

Through the site content—whether photos, videos, or the written sections—you should get a rough idea of the company’s culture. You can also learn from employees, too. Look them up on LinkedIn and talk to a few of them. Ask what they love about their job, inquire about the company goals, and find out about the culture.

Another method is to look at the job post and compare it those of similar companies on other local job sites. When you know what an employer is looking for in workers, culture becomes pretty apparent. Often, the best way to find out how this is communicated is just to look at descriptions for positions a given company needs to fill.

Ask for a Tour

Whenever you apply for a job, and they are interested in hiring you, why not visit the office apart from your interview?

Through scheduling, you can ask to take a tour of the offices and see how the company operates. You will not get to know everything that goes on in the company, but you should learn a bit more, and by seeing it with your own eyes, you can decide if the company is right for you.

More companies are starting to take initiative regarding culture. When you go for an interview, it is not uncommon to get a tour around the office and meet people you would potentially be working with. But if it is not offered, it is okay to ask.

Talk to the Interviewer

As you are being interviewed, do not be afraid to ask the interviewer questions. Ask them what they like about the company, and ask to learn more about the company’s culture. A good interviewer will be more than happy to answer all of your burning questions, so ask away.

A few questions worth asking include:

  • What does it take to succeed in the company? A company that has a culture of success and wants their employees to go as far as possible will gladly answer the question.
  • What are the company’s values? The answer should be about more than just valuing money. Some people like a company with a clear political agenda, and others think that politics should be kept out a company, so this is always worth asking.
  • Is there any schedule flexibility? If your life is hectic, and you may need some extra time, you want a company with a culture that values the needs of its employees first.
  • What happens if I take risks? An informal company culture will encourage risk-taking, whereas a more formal culture may be about the status quo, punishing those who think outside the box.
  • Can you tell me about the company’s philanthropic efforts? By figuring out if the company aligns itself with specific goals or causes, you can learn if the culture is right for you.
  • What is the dress code? You can get an idea of the dress code by looking at the workers, but maybe there’s a casual day, or perhaps you don’t need to dress formally at all. Getting an idea of the clothing workers wear can help you learn more about their culture.

Visit Corporate Events

The company you are interested in may have some events, such as an open house or promotional event, where you can visit and get a decent idea as to what the company is about.

You can talk with the workers and experts before you even apply, and this can get your foot in the company door. Look up the events on their website and head to one today.

Compare to Other Companies

When finding the best company culture, you want a sampling pool. Even if you think the company you’re going to be working for has the best culture around, you’ll want to compare it to the other companies you are considering. You may discover that the company with the best culture is not the one you thought it would be.

Each company has its own culture. If you were traveling to another country, you’d want to learn more about their culture before you visit, so why aren’t you doing the same with your company? Do some research and decide if that job is right for you.

Susan Ranford is the Community Outreach Coordinator for New York Jobs.