How to Assess Culture Fit During the Job Interview
A warm-blooded mammal sits, tepidly stroking the digits of its hands against the surface of a narrow block. It’s natural habit habitat seems to suggest a diet composed primarily of highly caffeinated liquids and protein snacks, from the mounting debris surrounding them. Occasionally sighted on away from their hovel, the subject appears anxious and alert when not travelling in packs…
One might think you’re reading an excerpt from national geographic, but in reality, it’s really just your future colleague. Much can be observed about a company’s culture during the job interview if you take the time to look around and think like a cultural anthropologist.
The next time you go in for an interview, ask yourself the same questions a researcher would to better understand the environment you might be entering into. Taking time to notice the details can give you great insights on whether or not you might fit it. Here’s 15 questions to get you started observing an organization’s culture:
- What are the typical styles of dress for employees and management?
- Do the buildings have identifiable features or decoration representing the company?
- How is public space used? Are people ‘hanging out’ to collaborate on ideas or ‘chit-chat’ or are they travelling from point A to B?
- Pending the time of day, do you notice particular eating practices? (Is it morning and everyone is coming in with coffee and donuts, lunch time and everyone’s brown-bagging it at their desk or taking time to go out and get lunch or congregate in a common area?)
- How do people greet one another or interact?
- How are visitors welcomed?
- Do you notice an important hierarchy system?
- How are gender roles perceived?
- How do people view obligations toward one another?
- What personal activities are seen as public? What activities are seen as private? (Do you overhear people mixing personal activities like phone calls among their work?)
- How is space used (How close are workspaces? How close are individuals when they interact with one and other? Is interaction easy or does it require effort?)
- How important is the individual in the culture? How important is the group?
- What role does nature or corporate social responsibility have in the workplace? (Is it featured or represented? )
- What is humorous? (Do you notice people laughing? Are their items in the environment that promote humor in the workplace?)
- How do individuals “know” things? (Are people encouraged to question things? Is there lots of posted information and information collection such as score keeping?)
While you may not be able to answer each and every one of these questions, they should provide you with a basis of the types of questions you should be asking yourself during your time visiting a potential employer to give you a better feel if the organization is the right place for you.
The observations you make can be just as important as the questions you ask in the interview and can be used to determine if an employer is putting on an act to make a hire, or if they actually practice what they preach.
Don’t be afraid to turn an observation into a question for the interviewer, such as: I noticed many people coming in late, is being on time a priority here or is there flexibility with the focus being on the work that’s getting done?
Just like the employer, it’s your responsibility to make an informed decision. There’s a wealth of information right in front of your eyes to help you determine if it’s the right place for you to grow your career. Don’t be afraid to observe the habitat around you to assess the cultural fit as a candidate.