A recent survey revealed a majority of adults value company culture over salary … but how can you evaluate a company's culture before taking the job?

You might be surprised to learn that more than half of adults consider a company's culture more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction, according to a recent Glassdoor survey. Additionally, 77 percent of adults take a company's culture into consideration before even submitting an application — and it makes sense. 

“You can have all the right qualifications for a role, but if you don't mesh well with the organization and its team, you ultimately won't be successful,” says Amanda Augustine, TopInterview's career expert.

Yet, unlike salary and benefits, gauging a good cultural fit isn't always straightforward. You can't necessarily Google “[name of company]'s culture” and find your answers. Even if your search yields a result, you'll probably find a bunch of buzzwords like “collaborative”, “fun”, “innovative”, and “inclusive.” There's nothing wrong with those, but will they really tell you if the company is a good fit for you?

The best time to assess a company's culture is during the interview process, where you can make your own observations and ask questions. Not sure where to start? Use these tips to help thoroughly evaluate a company's culture during your next job interview:

1. Notice the way you're initially received

You're told first impressions are everything during job interviews, so you need to dress the part. But what about your first impression of the company? Notice what happens during the first minute of your interview experience. Does a receptionist greet you? Does it seem as though they've been expecting you? Or are they surprised and flustered? Or is no one around, so you linger awkwardly?

The way a company greets you can tell you a lot, so keep that in mind.

2. Request a tour of the office

Your point of contact will likely offer to show you around the office, but if he or she doesn't, don't be afraid to ask.

As you walk around, make mental notes on these specific areas:

  • Have employees personalized their workspaces — or are they pretty sparse?

  • How are the desks and workspaces arranged?

  • How do employees treat the receptionist?

  • What are the employees wearing? How are they interacting with each other?

  • What do the common areas look like? The meeting rooms?

  • Where are employees eating lunch? Are they eating at their desks or the break room?

Taking note of these details will help you better understand the values of the company and its employees.

3. Ask the right questions

Remember: A job interview should be a two-way street, so ask some questions to help gauge whether or not the company is a good cultural fit for you.

Sure, you can simply ask your interviewer to describe the company's culture in three words. But you can also ask more subtle questions that'll give you an idea of what the company values. These might include:

  • How long have you been with this company?

  • What's your favorite part about working for this company?

  • What personalities tend to be successful here?

  • How does the company recognize employee wins?

  • How often does the company meet as a whole? How often do you have team meetings?

  • Are activities outside the office offered for employees?

Whether you value innovation, feedback, affirmation, teamwork, flexibility, or all the above, don't hesitate to form questions around these values and ask them during your interview.

4. Evaluate your interview

After the actual interview, take some time to evaluate your overall experience.

First, consider the interview itself. Note the types of questions the interviewer(s) asked. This will help you better understand what's important to the company and its employees. You might also consider the interview style. Was it a structured interview, which tends to be more formal and organized? Or was it a stress interview, which is designed to see how you react under stress? Or maybe it was unstructured — more laid-back and conversational. If the interview style didn't sit well with you, that's something to look at.

Second, consider your overall experience. Did you feel at ease? Did you connect with your interviewers? Did you find yourself nodding along as the interviewers answered your questions about company culture — or did something in your gut feel off?

Finally, consider the entire recruitment process. How quickly has it moved? How many steps has it required? What are the next steps? Are those clear? Has the company valued your time? Answer these questions to yourself, taking note of how smooth the entire process has been.

Final thoughts on evaluating company culture

When it comes to assessing a company's culture, you can research, ask questions, and chat with as many people as you want, but in the end, you'll need to trust your gut. Sure, it sounds cheesy, but you'll probably have a good —or bad — feeling about your interview experience, so don't disregard those feelings.

Remember: Salary and benefits are important, but you'll spend most of your days in an office, so you want to feel as though you fit in and can fully support the company and its values.

Before assessing the cultural fit of a company in your interview, work with a professional interview coach from TopInterview to gain the confidence you need to ask all the right questions.

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