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How to Uncover a Company’s Culture

While it might seem like the employer holds all the cards, it’s important to remember that you are in control of selecting where you apply and who you work for. Just as it is important for them to know you, and really know you, it is also vital for you to know them just as well. 

That said, figuring out a company’s true culture can feel difficult. The reality is that getting to know a company can take a lot of time and patience⁠—here’s how to do it:

First: Read Between The Lines

Upon a quick Google search, you’ll uncover a company’s mission statement, goals page, origin story, and a range of other messaging. If the company was a jobseeker, this would be their resume and cover letters!

The messaging a company shares will tell you a lot about their tone, style, expectations, values, and background. These are incredibly important when trying to figure out how a brand or team operates.

  • Is this mission strong? If not, there may not be a clear direction for the company.
  • Does the language feel conversational and warm, or reserved and corporate? This is a great cue into what the work environment might feel like.
  • Values – many companies will articulate these on their culture pages. Do your values align with that of the employer?

Just like when an employer reviews a resume and cover letter, reading a company’s website will allow you to make decisions about a culture without having physically met with them. Give yourself permission to trust your gut.

Then: Don’t Be Afraid to Judge The Book By Its Cover

Once you’ve absorbed the language a company uses, observe the overall look and feel of the website. This can tell you much more than you think about a company! 

Pay attention to the quality of the design and layout, the ease of use, and level of contentas you scroll through. Is it well-designed? Thoughtfully laid out? Are there generic stock images everywhere, or are there visuals that feel specialized to the brand?

Combined, these elements show how the company invests the impression they want to give off to any clients, partners, or future employees. Based on that, you can make informed assumptions about the resources a company might be working with and what will be available to you as a member of the team (this applies to resources you’ll have to complete your work, but also influences factors such as your professional development, opportunities for advancement, and more).

Next: Look at Their Social Proof

Websites such as Glassdoor.com will give you insights into what it’s like to work for an employer. Based on the feedback of current and previous staff, you’ll be able to pick on any red flags with regard to the company’s culture, as well as elements that align with what you’re looking for from your next opportunity. If you do notice red flags, take them with a grain of salt, turning them into questions that further your research into the company.

But don’t stop there!

In addition to the feedback current and previous staff, be sure to look into that of customers and clients. A company’s Better Business Bureau and Yelp ratings are good places to review this feedback. Why is this feedback important? A company’s treatment of its customers often translates into its overall culture and what you can expect to trickle into your day-to-day experience on the team.

Last: Test Your Assumptions

A company’s culture, just like anyone, changes over time. A company is made up of its people, so it takes on the collective face of those people. As helpful as all of your online research will be in gaining a sense of what it’s like to work for a company, you’ll want to test your assumptions by talking to current and/or previous employees.

Use this confirmation to gain information about a teams’ true culture and values. Pay close attention to their tone of voice and authenticity as they answer your questions, as these can reveal a lot about their experiences (some of which is often left unsaid!). By interviewing people who have been on the inside of the company, you’ll also get a sense of the kinds of people that thrive there and where team’s priorities lie. Mostly importantly: By connecting current employees, you’ll gain advocates and champions who can speak for you should you decide to apply.

You spend more time at work that you do with friends and family, so make sure you do ample research before committing to any opportunity. Look at it this way: Companies perform background checks and call references before making a hire. Why should you do the same to determine that a role is the best possible fit for you?

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