Interview Preparation – Researching Company Culture

In the third part of our interview prep series, we go into more detail about why researching company culture is vital in determining whether a company is the right place for you to work.

What is company culture?

Company culture is the personality of the company, and honestly, that can be hard to define.

This culture can be created through fundamental company values and ethos, enforced via management styles, policies and procedures. These, in turn, affect the attitudes of the staff and the environment that can cultivate day-to-day activities in the workplace.

The wrong company culture for you can be very demoralising and have a negative effect on your mental health. The right culture, however, can be fun, motivating, allow you to develop your career path and thrive.

How to research company culture

Firstly, determine what sort of company culture you want to work in. This may be hard to do if you’re looking for your first job, so perhaps think about the environment that helps you the most when you want to be productive (e.g. when revising for exams). For instance, do you prefer an environment that is:

  • demanding or relaxed
  • slow- or fast-paced
  • competitive or collaborative

If you’re looking for jobs and getting interviews, there are online tools and methods for determining company culture. These can include:

Utilising your network – reach out to people you know who work in that organisation. An informal chat can tell you a lot about how the company operates and treats its employees.

Workplace review sites – websites such as Glassdoor provide reviews on companies by its employees on how well they are treated. Inside Voices provides reviews of global companies based specifically on their levels of diversity and inclusion, written by people of colour.

Searching the news – harmful company cultures do occasionally make news headlines. So even a quick Google search of news items can be useful in helping you avoid toxic work environments!

Questions to ask in Interviews

Once you’ve completed the above preliminary research, if you’re invited to interview then you have the opportunity to delve further into the culture. It is important to find out if the management style is compatible with your way of working and the development opportunities align with your goals. It’s also important to consider the impact of working in that particular organisation on your mental wellbeing.

Example questions can include the following:

  • How would you describe your management style?
  • How do you encourage professional growth and development for you direct reports?
  • How often would I expect feedback on performance and in what form?
  • How do you handle stress or burnout in your direct reports?

Knowing as much information before and throughout your interview allows you to imagine yourself working within that culture and to determine if you’d be a good fit.

Photo credit: Tima Miroshnichenko