The Importance of Corporate Culture

I recently read an article on the importance of corporate cultural fit when interviewing potential candidates.  A blogger highlighted unconventional questions that an employer should ask to determine if a candidate fits into their company’s culture.  As someone looking for a job, are you prepared to answer these types of questions?  And, is fitting in with a company’s culture something you should consider when evaluating potential employment?

Corporate culture goes beyond a company’s policies and regulations.  It is the collective attitude you sense, the rituals and routines that take place and the unspoken politics and power structures you observe.  A company’s culture can greatly influence the way you feel about your job so it’s worthwhile to ask some probing questions in an attempt to uncover the subtleties of the corporate environment.

Ask about diversity.  Find out if workplace diversity is considered a valuable asset.  Companies can talk the talk but you want to make sure that they walk the walk.  Ask to walk around and observe.  Ask to meet with others in the organization.  You’ll be able to get an immediate sense if a diverse workforce is something that is valued.

Ask about autonomy.  Some companies reward people for innovative thinking and creativity.  Others prefer that you tow the company party line and work within dictated parameters.  Think about the type of environment you like.  Do you favor structure and guidelines or are you self-motivated and independent? If you feel that you could greatly improve upon a policy or operation, find out if your initiative will be welcome?

Ask about decision-making to gain insight into the power structure.  Find out who makes the decisions and how widely spread the power is within a company.  Find out what power is based upon.  Is power based upon title, position or tenure?  Or are there other underlying factors that determine how power is distributed?  Is all of the company power concentrated at the top?  Asking about how new policies are generated is a great way to gain insight into the power structure.

Try to get a feel for the rituals and routines within an organization.  Are there mandatory management meetings and conference calls?  Do employees work in separate physical spaces with very little interaction or is there high engagement among employees.  Do employees socialize outside the workplace?  Think about the type of workplace environment that would most closely align with your personality and goals.

Try to reach out to current employees of an organization on social media or other networking sites to pick their brains and gain perspective on culture.  Ask how they’d describe their company and ask how they feel about working there.  Look at a company’s website.  Many promote their culture on their website or in their annual report.  Most importantly, if you are asked about any concerns you may have regarding company policies, make sure to do the research and ask honest questions about any issues you encounter.  You should expect to engage in an open, honest dialogue with an interviewer.  This reflects the overall level of transparency you will be able to expect within an organization.

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