This article is by Paula T. Edgar Esq. She is founder and principal of PGE LLC, a consulting firm that specializes in professional coaching, social media strategy, and diversity and inclusion.
Picture this: You’ve found a great job opening and nailed the interview process. Congratulations! But not so fast. Even if a company seems like a great place to work, it’s in your best interest to do your due diligence and suss out exactly what you’re getting into. Before you accept the job offer or even enter negotiations, ask yourself:
Do you believe you will truly be able to learn, grow, and thrive as an employee there? Can you bring your authentic self to that work environment? Are you aligned with the characteristics, language, values, beliefs, and behaviors that represent the organization’s culture?
If you answered yes to the above — i.e. you feel like you’ll be included and accepted in that work environment — you’ve determined that yes, you feel you are a “fit” for that particular company’s culture and can move forward.
You’re also in the minority. Most of us don’t fully know the answers to these questions right away. That’s why I’m here: to share five tried-and-true methods for feeling out the office vibe before you’ve signed on the dotted line. Check them out:
We all know to have questions ready when an interviewer prompts you at the end of your meeting. This is also an excellent opportunity to collect some basic data on office culture. Go beyond asking what a typical day is like, asking the interviewer:
- To describe the company’s culture
- To share what she believes is required to be successful there (in addition to the usual suspects like skill and drive)
- To describe what the onboarding process for new hires is like, along with how the company integrates new employees to set them up for success. Your interviewer is often your best resource — use her!
2. Peruse the company website and social channels.
Look carefully at what they’re saying about themselves. This means going beyond the job description and whatever’s written on the homepage. Be sure to:
- Browse through all of their social media accounts and FAQs.
- Download and read the press kit if it’s available.
- Poke around for pictures, events, blog posts, initiatives, and any other content that features team members. What are the employees wearing? Do they look excited? Happy? Does the messaging resonate with you? Do you feel inspired? Can you visualize yourself there? These things are crucial.
Beyond the company’s own marketing materials, also check out their digital footprint. Are there forums with comments or reviews from clients or employees, past and present? Use sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn to look for people’s comments and feedback about working at the company. What sort of press hits come up when you search the company’s name in Google News?
Take things with a grain of salt, of course, but this is your chance to get a feel for general themes and perceptions of how the outside world views the company and its workforce. Bonus: If you are a recent graduate or your alma mater has a strong alumni network, reach out to your school’s career services department and ask if they have any intel on the company, either from direct interactions or from alumni feedback. You could unlock a goldmine of information and connections that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
4. Reach out to current employees.
Leverage Linkedin or Facebook Graph Search to see whether you’re connected to anyone who currently works at the company. There are a lot of nice people who’d likely be happy to offer up their insight to a prospective employee. If appropriate, reach out and ask them to share their experience with you. Some good questions to consider asking (in person or on the phone – not via email): How would you describe the emphasis on professional development and the company’s commitment to your success? Do you receive constructive feedback? How open is the organization to new ideas and innovation? Do you enjoy going to work? Why?
Also keep in mind that some companies are open to having finalists for a position actually spend time with employees upon special request. If you are able to take a personal day from your current job, ask your recruiter if the company allows candidates to attend a team meeting or even shadow a current employee for a day. What better way to determine whether a company is a fit for you than experiencing someone’s actual routine and workday?
Finally, remember: You have already proven yourself capable by getting the offer. Employing some (or all) of these strategies should help you decide whether to accept. By prioritizing your happiness and the resources you need to be successful, you’re adding value to your own professional development and whatever organization you ultimately end up working at. Good luck!
Photo: Getty Images