Finding a Job

How to Learn More About a Company's Culture

December 17, 2020

Company or corporate culture can influence many different aspects of a business. Understanding it can help you decide whether you will enjoy a position at a particular organization. Since recruiters try to describe companies positively and tell you what you want to hear, you may need to ask several questions. In this article, we will describe some common types of corporate culture and some questions you can ask to learn more about a company.

What are some cultural questions you can ask?

Asking the right questions can help you uncover useful information about how a company works and its ethics, values and vision. That way, you will have all the information you need to find a position you love and advance your career. Here are some things you can ask to learn more about the company culture:

How long have you worked with the company?

You should ask your interviewers and other people at the business you encounter this question. If many of the employees you talk to have not been working there long, it could be a sign of high turnover. High turnover is often associated with low pay, low job satisfaction, long hours, a lack of opportunities for advancement or incompetent management. Unless the company started recently or is in the middle of a rapid expansion, many of the people you speak to should have more than a year of experience with the company.

How did you start?

This is a great question for building relationships with people and learning about their history as well as the company culture. If many of the people you speak to were promoted from other positions in the company, it is a sign that the business is willing to help people advance their careers. The answers you hear will also give you some useful tips on how to get promoted faster.

What was the last big achievement that the company or the department celebrated?

This question gives interviewers an opportunity to tell people how the company rewards high performance and celebrates achievements. You can learn whether the company has parties, gatherings or awards ceremonies and what they're like. Some businesses reward the team as a whole, and others rate individual performance and give awards or bonuses to top performers.

Companies can have a quick party or ceremony during lunch, hold events after work or even host weekend getaways for their top workers. Some people enjoy working at companies that hold large parties, and others would rather go home and relax. Taking the time to learn how the company celebrates will let you know what the company culture around celebrations is like.

What is the dress code like?

Companies that do not have a dress code or have few rules about attire a likely to feel more laid back and less traditional than other businesses. If you are allowed to wear T-shirts and jeans, you are more likely to be able to choose flexible hours and enjoy office pets, exercise rooms, well-appointed employee lounges and other perks. Jobs with lax dress codes can be just as stressful as those that require professional attire such as dresses or suits and ties, but people in these positions are less likely to interact with customers or potential clients in person.

For example, software developers, call center workers and people in creative professions often spend much of their time dressing casually. If an office requires professional dress or has a detailed dress code, it may have strict policies and rules about other aspects of the business as well. However, appearance standards are just a small clue to the work environment, and they can't give you a complete picture of the company culture by themselves.

Related: Guide to Business Casual Attire

What activities do employees often participate in?

Many companies have trivia teams, softball leagues, company outings and other activities that you can participate in. They can help you meet coworkers and encourage people to work together and communicate more efficiently. However, many people would rather spend their free time with friends than coworkers. Some businesses that offer these activities may think that people who do not attend are not interested in teamwork. This could make participating necessary for career advancement. By asking this question, you can find out if you need to look for a position with a more formal, nine-to-five environment.

What was the company's biggest challenge in the last year, and what did it teach you?

This question can help you discover whether the company blames inefficient procedures, poor training or individuals when something goes wrong. Businesses that blame employees for issues like high accident rates, low sales or high costs tend to have high turnover and ongoing issues. You should look for a company that is willing to keep up with industry trends, adapt to unexpected events and make policy changes when needed.

How much time do owners, company leaders and executives spend at the office?

Leaders who spend time with employees can get a more accurate picture of what work conditions are like and any necessary changes. Smaller businesses usually have more involved leaders, and executives at larger companies may never visit work sites. Instead, they rely on reports from managers. If you are considering a position at a large company, you should have a reliable way to contact upper management and leave your comments and suggestions.

The best ideas often come directly from the individuals actually doing the work. If a leader does not pay attention to staff members' suggestions or spend time with them, it could be a sign of a company with little innovation or support for workers. A leader that spends most of their free time at the office can indicate a business that encourages their employees to spend their nights and weekends at work.

What do people usually do for lunch?

Finding out what people do during lunch can tell you how busy the company tends to be and whether coworkers socialize while they eat. You can learn if people usually bring their lunch or go to a restaurant. You can also discover if people feel they have enough time to eat or if they often feel rushed.

Can we take a quick tour of the office?

To keep it from seeming too intrusive, save this question for your final interview. A quick walk around the workplace can let you know whether people have separate offices or cubicles, what types of decorations people have and how they dress. You can take a minute to introduce yourself, talk to a few people and decide if you want to work with them. You can also see if people look stressed, how busy they are and whether computers and other equipment seem outdated. You can also ask how many people work from home.

Related: Everything You Should Know About Working From Home

How does the company help the community?

Some businesses view philanthropy as a distraction, and others donate to local organizations and promote their community activities. Understanding a business's level of community involvement can help you decide if the organization is right for you. Knowing the charities that the company gives to can also provide insight into its priorities. A place that cares about the same issues as you will be more likely to employ managers and coworkers that share your values and views.

Types of company culture

There are several main types of company culture, and some businesses have a combination of cultures. Here are some types of corporate culture:

  • Team first culture. These businesses are team-oriented, and the job satisfaction and happiness of their employees are top priorities. They often host social events for employees and team-building activities. They also ask people for feedback often and communicate as openly as possible. Members of management at these places believe that if the workers are happy, they will work harder and please customers more.
  • Conventional culture. Companies with conventional cultures often have a strict dress code and several levels of management. They avoid risks, make changes slowly and prioritize profits for the company and its shareholders over the experiences of workers or customers. People who enjoy structure and tradition are most successful at these businesses.
  • Progressive culture. Company cultures are progressive when they decide to make lots of changes in a short time. Many organizations become progressive after a merger, the acquisition of another company or the appearance of new investors. This type of working environment is best if you can adapt to changes and learn new policies quickly.
  • Horizontal culture. In a business with a horizontal culture, job titles mean less because people's roles often overlap. These companies are usually smaller, and people collaborate often and help each other with their work.

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