A lot of factors determine whether or not you’re happy at your job: being paid appropriately for your work, having a certain amount of autonomy during the day and feeling connected to the company’s mission all help.
But one of the most important factors may be company culture. If you don’t feel like you fit in, you won’t be at ease during your workday.
Of course, that’s easier to determine once you’ve put in a few months working for the company. Ideally, however, you’d be able to tell whether you’ll feel in sync with your coworkers before you took the job.
It’s tricky, but not impossible. Here’s how:
1. Interview Your Future Teammates
At Harvard Business Review, career strategist John Lees tells Rebecca Knight that interviewing prospective coworkers can be helpful:
“Talk to as many people as you can,” Lees says. In particular, get to know the coworkers with whom you’ll form “your key working relationships.” Then “just chat. Ask, ‘What are you working on at the moment? What are you hoping to achieve? And what gets in the way?’” Their answers will be revealing. “Is it market factors? The economy? The CEO? Internal backbiting?” Pay close attention to the kinds of people you’re meeting. “If you identify talented, motivated people who have been there a long time, that is a very good signal.” Your mindset should be “simultaneously positive and optimistic but also cynical,” he says. Don’t betray any skepticism or negativity, however. “You must constantly communicate that you are pleased to have received the offer and delighted at the prospect of working there.”
2. Network Your Way to Information
If you’ve gotten this far in the interview process, chances are you were referred by a present or former employee. (Up to 85 percent of all hires happen because of networking connections, according to experts.) Don’t stop networking now that you’ve got your foot in the door: use those connections to get the scoop on the culture.
Even if you applied online, dazzled them with your skills and know no one at the organization, most industries are a small world. Chances are, you know someone who knows someone who’s worked there before. Ask around and see what you hear. (LinkedIn might provide a reminder of mutual connections.)
Just remember to take any gossip with a grain of salt. Consider the source, and keep in mind that your experience might be very different from theirs.
3. Review the Company’s Job Listings
Employers tell applicants a lot about the company culture just by choosing certain words in their job listings.
Textio’s Word Nerd blog recently analyzed the language in job listings posted by 10 major tech companies. What they found were distinct language patterns that revealed insights into each employer’s culture.
For example, Amazon’s listings frequently used “wickedly,” “fast-paced environment” and “maniacal.” Apple, on the other hand, chose words like “comfortably” and “empathetic,” as well as “maintaining control.”
Textio’s Kieran Snyder tells employers that these patterns can sometimes “be at odds with what you say you value. When your PR talks about work/life balance, but your team consistently advertises jobs that are work hard/play hard, your team is the one telling the truth.”
For prospective employees, looking at those patterns may reveal the actual company culture — and not the one the employer wants to sell you.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you come up with a foolproof way of figuring out company culture during the interview process? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.