Culture Rules- Investigating Company Cultures

iStock_000025830858SmallWhen searching for a job it’s important to consider the job duties as well as the company and the company’s culture. Two companies have become famous for their cultures—Google and Zappos. Google is known as a company where you work hard in an amazing environment. Oh, and the food is free! Zappos is known as a place where employees are valued, and customer service is the first priority. Here at Promega, science rules, employee well-being is extremely important, and you can make a big impact regardless of your job title.

If you are able to find a company with an appealing culture and similar values to your own, it is a win-win situation. You will likely be happier in your job and therefore a better performer.

Here are some questions that you can ask to learn about the company culture and figure out if it is a fit with your personality and needs. These questions can be asked in an interview or in an informational conversation with someone in your network before you apply for a job. Keep in mind that there is no right answer to these questions. Some people thrive in government jobs while others have more of an entrepreneurial spirit; you need to figure out what type of culture will work best for you.

If you are looking for more of an entrepreneurial or innovative culture:

How much chaos can I expect on a daily basis?

What types of projects will I get to own?

Can you describe my manager’s style? Is she more hands-on or hands-off?

What would I have to do if I saw an opportunity for improvement in my area? What about in another area of the company?

Is there an area of the company that drives business the most?

If you value a rules-driven, analytical culture:

Is it a high-rules culture?

Is this a very process-driven workplace? How often do processes tend to change here?

Are processes very check-list oriented?

Does the work tend to be very different every day or is there a general schedule that is followed?

If you are looking for lots of room for growth:

What does the growth path look like for this job?

Is there an emphasis placed on employee training and growth?

What does orientation look like?

Is it typical for employees to move to different areas of the organization?

Will I get assigned a mentor?

If you’d like a culture that values work-life balance and employee wellness:

What hours would I be expected to work?

Are there opportunities to work from home in this position?

Is there childcare onsite?

Can you tell me about the wellness program?

To determine whether the culture is collaborative vs. individualistic:

How much of my time would I spend working solo vs. in meetings?

Would most of my projects be individual or would I work with a group?

How often would I work with cross-functional teams?

If you are looking for a culture where people are held accountable for their work:

How are employees evaluated? Are they evaluated by their peers or just their manager?

How often is feedback given to employees?

General questions to ask:

What are the values of the company?

Where does the organization spend most of its money (R&D, new equipment in operations, employee salaries, donuts)?

What is your dress code?

How do you describe the corporate culture? (This is a good one to ask several people and look for consistency)

What type of personality would thrive at this company?

What do you think is the company’s greatest asset?

Obviously asking all of these questions would be overkill. Think about what’s important to you and pick a few questions that will help you understand the pieces of the culture that are most critical to you. In my case, I like an innovative culture that values employee wellness, so I’d stick to questions related to those areas. Have fun in your company culture investigation!

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Becca McKnight

Becca McKnight

Senior Recruitment Specialist at Promega Corporation
Becca is a member of Promega’s Emotional and Social Intelligence (ESI) team where she gets to coach employees, teach classes related to self-awareness, mindfulness, empathy and relationship management skills and teach yoga during the lunch hour. She earned her BS in psychology with a minor in dance at the University of Iowa. In her free time you can find her dancing with her toddler, practicing yoga or cooking.

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