Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Considering Company Culture

We’ve all been there before.  After answering interview questions that are designed to assess your ability to complete the job functions, the hiring manager asks something like, “What kind of management style do you prefer?” or “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?”  These questions are usually asked after the hiring manager has determined that you can do the job but is now trying to assess if you are the right person to do the job.
Every company has a culture.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines culture as: “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization”. During the interview process, hiring managers try to assess a candidate’s fit with their company’s culture.  They want to know how you will get along with others, how you will express your emotions, and if your personal beliefs align with those of the company.  Some companies rely on situational questions to assess fit, while others require candidates to take various assessments (paper/pencil or online) to help gauge how their style and personality will fit within their company.   
But “fit” is a two-way street, isn’t it?  As you complete the interview process, you are making observations of your own.  Whether or not you consciously look for signs of a company’s culture, you pick up on things and get a sense of what it would be like to work there.  For example:  Is the atmosphere hectic or relaxed?  What is the dress code?  Does there seem to be lots of social interaction or is everyone working quietly?  Is the office area open or closed off?  Is the gender distribution skewed toward men, women, or is it equal?  How culturally diverse are the employees?  Does the average age of the employees seem to be younger or older?  What are the hours of operation?
Sometimes it is hard to articulate exactly what we are looking for in regards to company culture.  Often times, we leave an interview either loving the company or feeling that something just wasn’t right.  Some say that if we are to spend 40+ hours per week at work, it's important to feel like you fit in with your company’s culture.  Others say that with the economy as it is, considering company culture isn’t an option and we just have to be thankful that we received an offer in the first place.
What do you think?
·    How important is a company’s culture to you in your job search?  Does the condition of the economy affect your likelihood of considering company culture when contemplating accepting a job offer?
·    Which aspects of a company’s culture are most important to you?  Least important?
·    What do you look for during the interview process that might be good indicators of a company’s culture?

Barrie Berquist is a Retail Analyst on the ConAgra Foods Team at Acosta Sales and Marketing.  She has been a member of the MN AMA since 2007 and is a member of the MarCom Committee where she serves as the Career Insider Blog Project Manager.  She can be reached at barrieberquist@yahoo.com.  You can follow Barrie on Twitter @BEBERQUIST.  

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