Avoid Culture Shock: The Questions You Should Be Asking During an Interview

Many women choose jobs based on salary and other perks, but culture may be the most important factor. Employees tend to leave organizations (willingly or not) when they don’t fit in.

A recent report by Execu|Search Group reveals “poor corporate culture” as one of the top four reasons employees leave an organization. And, even though salary plays a large part in the decision to leave or stay at a company, over half of surveyed workers looking for a new job said they would reject their current company’s counter offer.

What Is Company Culture?

According to Allison Doyle, “Company culture is the personality of a company. It defines the environment in which employees work.”

Company culture includes everything from dress code to chain of command. It often sets the “mood” for the office and determines whether employees look forward to or dread coming in every day.

Why is Company Culture Important?

Robert Basso is president of Advantage Payroll Services and author of The Everyday Entrepreneur. Basso tells HER Magazine, “Candidates want to work for businesses they feel mirror their values and mindsets. They want to work at place where they will feel respected, appreciated, and rewarded for their hard work.” 

Employees typically spend eight hours a day at work. They spend more time at work than with friends and family. So, co-workers are often viewed as extended family.

“Learning about a company’s culture helps a candidate assess if that company is the type of family and environment they want to join,” says Basso.

An employee must “fit” into the company’s culture. Think about an ill-fitting shoe: If it’s too tight, the shoe will be painful to wear. If it’s too big, movement will be clunky and clumsy, inhibiting normal movement.

Nancy Saperstone, senior HR business partner with Insight Performance, tells HER Magazine, “Fit can be almost as important as having the right skills and experience to do the job.”

She says alignment with the culture and vision is crucial to an employee’s success.

“Sharing information about their company’s values and how that plays out in the day-to-day are important (to both the applicant and company) to assess fit.”

Determine Whether You Fit in the Company

These are some ways to evaluate a company’s culture:

  • Does it value flexibility and work-life balance or believe employees should be available 24/7 and attend every company event?
  • Does the company encourage teamwork or competition?
  • Are employees encouraged to ask, “Why are we doing this?” and share new ideas or conform to rigid methodologies?
  • Does the company provide opportunities for advancement, or do employees remain in the same position?
  • Does the company volunteer in the community or spend all of its resources on itself?
  • Can employees easily articulate the company’s vision, or is it frequently changing gears and rebranding itself?

Basso believes in a strong company culture and vision.

“We have an internal and external community that is supported through vast company programs and initiatives that promote employee camaraderie, appreciation, empowerment, health/wellbeing and participation in various charitable endeavors that all foster positive employee and workplace morale.”

Research Potential Employers

While candidates should ask about the company’s culture during the interview, they also need to do their homework. Don’t expect hiring managers to disclose issues with their culture – after all, they’re trying to hire you and need to present the organization in the best light.

Read online employee reviews from companies like Glassdoor.com. Use your social network to locate current employees, and ask them for their honest opinion. Do they like working there? Would they recommend the company to others? Also research the company’s record on corporate social responsibility.

Scott Ruprecht is the founder and president of Giveback Sports. He recently interviewed several candidates for various open positions. He told HER Magazine many college graduates and interns “are drawn to profit-plus-purpose businesses like Giveback Sports. For every sports ticket or travel package sold, we dedicate a portion of our profits to send less fortunate youth to live sporting events.”

He believes companies like his have an advantage.

“We don’t need to emphasize culture and vision during the interview process – candidates can see it right in front of them,” says Ruprecht. “They just want to know how they can be a part of it.”

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