Assessing A Company’s Culture While Interviewing Remotely
Finding a company culture where you can be your authentic self and feel comfortable in the work environment will help you feel more engaged, enjoy your role and want to stay with the organization longer. Determining whether the fit will be a good one for you starts during the interview process. So how do you do this most effectively during a pandemic — when you will be meeting your potential employers through a video screen?
When most candidates interview for a new role, they also pay attention to the office itself. They consider what the energy is like in the building, whether people are encouraged to decorate their workspaces, how employees interact with each other throughout the day and what types of amenities are available. But this isn’t always possible when interviewing remotely.
You are relying on video software, usually seeing the interviewer’s home office and likely only talking to one person at a time. Without the opportunity to assess key contextual clues, it becomes even more important for a potential candidate to take extra care to understand the culture.
I recommend three tools for those who are interviewing remotely and want to carefully assess whether the company’s culture is a good fit for them:
- Get clear on what’s important to you
- Look at the company’s online presence
- Ask targeted questions during your interviews
1. Get clear on what’s important to you.
The first step is to articulate for yourself what appeals to you. Before you interview, ask yourself: “What features of the company culture are most important to me?” Consider your own values and the types of environments that have been a good match for you in the past. Going into your interviews with these factors already in mind will help keep them salient for you.
Consider the factors that will be most impactful for you. It could be anything from how family-friendly they are, how collaboratively teams work together, how open the communication channels are or how the values of the company are expressed through decisions senior leaders make.
2. Look at the company’s online presence.
The company’s website can provide many clues about the company’s culture. How do they talk about employees and what type of support do they offer? In particular, look for whether they have employee resource groups, take an active philanthropic role in the communities where people work and live and how they talk about their company values coming to life.
Beyond the company’s website, look at their presence on social media sites, such as LinkedIn. What types of posts do they make and what do their senior leaders say online? Resources like Glassdoor can also give you a sense of how current and former employees describe the company.
3. Ask targeted questions during your interviews
In addition to sharing your qualifications and experience, interviews are also a chance for you to assess the company. While questions like “What is the culture here?” may feel too broad, you can ask more targeted questions that will help illuminate important aspects of the culture.
Try asking questions such as:
- “What three words would you use to describe the work environment?”
- “Why have you chosen to stay here?”
- “How do employees find out about decisions being made by senior leaders?”
- “What are some things people to do ‘fit in’ here?”
- “Where do you see the company’s values in action?”
Look for themes in how individuals respond to these questions and the type of information they share.
It should be said that these three tools can help any job candidate assess whether a company’s culture will be a good fit for them. But they’re especially critical when you won’t be meeting your interviewers in person or seeing the inside of the company’s headquarters. They are helpful tools to determine whether there is alignment between your personal values and those of the company.
Working remotely certainly adds challenges to our work lives and can make everyday tasks more complicated. This can be particularly true for those who are interviewing for jobs in new companies.
Taking the time to get clear on what’s important to you, look at the company’s online presence and ask targeted questions can help you assess the company’s culture and determine whether it is a good fit for you.
O’Reilly, C.A., Chatman, J., & Caldwell, D. F. (1991) People and Organizational Culture: A Profile Comparison Approach to Assessing Person-Organization Fit. Academy of Management Journal, 34 (3), pg 487-516.
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