There’s almost nothing worse than starting your new job only to find that the company culture does not align with your values and expectations. If the culture isn’t something that you can fit into, you’ll quickly find yourself enduring low job fulfilment or even struggling to perform. But if you’re a good fit, you can enjoy job satisfaction, and find avenues to develop yourself professionally and personally.
Getting a sense of workplace culture over the relatively short recruitment process is no easy task. In fact, in the annual Singapore 100 Leading Graduate Employers Survey 2021 conducted by GTI Media Singapore (S100 Survey), 39% of respondents stated that information about workplace culture was the most difficult to find out when researching a prospective company. You would often have to go out of your way to figure out if it’s a match for you during, or even before, your interview.
Before taking the plunge, follow these tips to help you understand the culture of your prospective company before you sign on the dotted line!
Before the interview
Start looking out for indicators of company culture from the beginning, right when you’re sending out your applications. We recommended doing some background checks on the companies you apply to. It might seem like a hassle to scan through every single one that catches your eye, especially when that number can pile up. But by doing so, you’ll be able to avoid applying for positions that may not live up to your expectations.
Check through the job listings
Look closely at the job description, and you’ll inevitably come across both positive and negative aspects of the organisation. The words “ability to meet deadlines” in a job description may mean no work-life balance, for example. But don’t let this bother you! Everyone has different values and expectations of a company and role, so you shouldn’t just base your assumptions on the last source you took a peek at.
Scope out the company website
The best place to start your research is the company’s website. Take a good look at the language used in their Mission and Vision, and see what you can infer from it. For example, the use of the word “innovative” hints at a culture open to creative ideas and forward-thinking. Even photos on the company website can give you a peek into the culture there! Team photos can be a good indicator of diversity and inclusivity, and if the same is true of photos of the management team, so much the better.
Look for company reviews
Companies with a positive culture are sure to get praise from their employees. If you happen to know someone who currently works or who had worked in those companies, ask them for their opinion to get the inside scoop. If not, you can also learn more about what it’s like to work for this company from external sites that host reviews and opinions of the company. Websites like Glassdoor or Indeed include reviews by former and current employees, giving you a snapshot of the working culture of the organisation.
On interview day
Be early on the day of your interview…and discreetly snoop
Though some companies are still holding video interviews, most will ask you to attend at least one physical interview at the office. This is the chance to unobtrusively observe office life!
The definition of a good working environment can be different for everyone – some might love the idea of an open-space office, while those who appreciate a little more privacy might prefer cubicles. Ultimately, imagine yourself in the environment and ask: Can I envision myself working here for the next few years?
Although this may not be a foolproof way to ascertain workplace culture (especially since not all employees might be physically there), you’ll be able to see how happy (or unhappy) those present are. If the office is too quiet, it may indicate a culture of overwork, as everyone is too busy trying to meet short deadlines. Similarly, if employees walk past each other without greetings, it could be due to an unfriendly work environment. Your observations alone may not make or break your decision, but at least you’ll have a reference to turn to later!
Ask questions during your interview
When going in for an interview, it is not only a chance for the interviewers to gauge you as a candidate – it’s also an opportunity for you to get a better impression on what working with the company will be like should you get hired.
During the interview, come prepared with strategic questions to ask the interviewer. After all, this is the best time for you to ask any burning questions you have and clear any doubts and uncertainties. When given the opportunity, ask away – the answers you get can tell you a lot about the company, whether good or bad.
Avoid asking questions that’ll get you “yes” or “no” answers, and instead ask about daily tasks. How teams communicate with each other is another talking point, as is work-from-home policies, especially if the initiatives are to continue post-Covid-19. The answers you get may be open-ended, but you’ll be able to see how healthy (or unhealthy) the company workplace culture is.
Read between the lines
The way in which your questions are answered is just as important as the questions you ask. Take note of your recruiter’s body language when they answer. Are their arms crossed to show that they’re defensive? Or do their answers sound like they’re being reluctantly dragged out? Do the answers sound rehearsed, much like your recruiter is trying to hide something?
Pay closer attention to what’s being emphasised too. For instance, if an answer sounds like, “We allow employees to wear jeans and T-shirts to the office on weekends”, you’re either looking at a bad joke, or a workplace culture of overwork.
Although these tips can help you figure out what the workplace culture at your prospective company is like, they’re not exhaustive. Don’t take it too hard if you misjudged the company’s environment. There are other elements to job satisfaction, and you may still end up enjoying your time working at the company.
This article is contributed by gradsingapore.