The culture of an organization is its shared values and beliefs. Understanding the culture is vital to determining your success in the organization. However, no one explains the cultural norms to new hires. Often newcomers make the mistake of focusing only on the technicalities of their new job. They forget to take note of the cultural nuances which are foundational to working well with people. This impacts their initial success and early impressions in the organization. 

You must know the aspects of culture that matter to you and actively look for them. You can find a lot even before you consider joining an organization. Here are some tips to help – 

Check the company website – The language used on the website is a good indicator of the culture, even if it is meant to portray the company in the best light possible. You can note things like – 

  • What are the stated values of the company? 
  • How is the culture described? If the culture is not mentioned, note that as well. 
  • Is the tone of language personal or professional? 
  • What kind of pictures and titles are used? 
  • How are the job descriptions phrased? What behaviors are invited? 

These will give you a feel for how the company wants to be perceived. You can look for evidence of how these values are lived, in your conversations during the interview process. 

Check other online media presence of the company – Look at how it engages with its communities on social media channels. 

  • What does the company choose to talk about? 
  • What does it avoid? 
  • What is the tone of messages shared? 
  • What causes does it support, e.g., education, diversity, environment, etc.? 
  • Why has the company been in the news in the recent past – growth, major hiring/firing, regulatory scrutiny, etc? 

Do not just go by what the company puts out. Look for any themes in the employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor. 

Keep in mind that any large company will have sub-cultures. Your conversations with your prospective boss and teammates are likely to tell you the most.  

Observe the interview process – Your experiences during the interview process will give you a peek into what you may expect later. 

  • Was the process chaotic? 
  • Was the interview rescheduled multiple times? 
  • Did you have to wait a lot for interviewers? 
  • How many rounds of discussions happened? 
  • How did you feel about your interactions?
  • Were the conversations formal or warm? 

These experiences indicate what you might encounter once you join, e.g., a chaotic interview process might mean other spheres of business may also be in disarray. 

Ask questions – Ask the business team specific questions about the culture of the organization during the interviewing process. Here is an indicative list – 

  • What makes you proud to be associated with this organization?
  • What behaviors are most valued here?
  • What is the one thing you want to change about the organization?
  • What is the most recent success story in the organization/team?
  • What is most challenging about the role we are discussing?
  • How diverse is the team? How is inclusion fostered?
  • How flexible are the work arrangements? 
  • How do teams collaborate if working asynchronously? 
  • How is the employee well being taken care of?

If you get vague responses, it shows that either the organization has not thought about it or the hiring manager does not consider this aspect important. 

You can also reach out to your professional network or connect with current or former employees of the company on LinkedIn for information. These conversations will give you insights you may not get on company channels online or during the interview process.  

Once you have done your research, assess the observations you have made. Think about the aspects of the culture that excite you and make you want to work at this organization, and what are the red flags for you? Also, reflect on what is non-negotiable for you. Working for a company whose overall values, core beliefs and ways of working align with yours, you are more likely to have a long and fulfilling stint with the organization.

PS – This piece was published first on LinkedIn as a part of the Your Career Matters series.

If you are taking up a new role, consider executive coaching to help you integrate into the new organization and build credibility in 90 days. Book a no pressure discussion now.