Hacks to uncovering firm culture before joining a team
Office culture is an important consideration when exploring new opportunities, but often times it can be difficult to get an accurate gauge of it. After all, there is no sign announcing “This office is a relaxing environment” when you enter the lobby—unless you know where to look. Many offices provide hints as to what their firm culture is like before, during and after the interview.
Before the interview
Many people research companies before applying, whether it is to bolster their cover letter, find relevant job listings or find the hiring manager’s name. But pre-interview research is also a good way to understand the temperature of a company and begin to get an understanding of their culture.
- Look at industry job sites that review companies and allow employees and others to review the companies as well. They often include information and reviews on companies, managers, job descriptions—everything that can help you gain a better understanding about the company.
- Use social media to find people already working with the organization to discover the average tenure of employees, gauge how the organization operates, what it values and how it treats its employees.
- Research a prospective company through review sites such as Yelp. Seeing what their customers are saying is as important as what their employees are saying.
- Don’t overlook simply reading through a company’s website to see how they present themselves.
During the interview
While an interview is a chance for a company to see if you are the right person for the job, it is also an opportunity to see if the company and role are right for you. As you tour the office space, take note of what employees are wearing.
- Are they all dressed in professional attire?
- Does it skew more business casual, or possibly even more relaxed?
As you’re passing through, also try to see how employees decorate their desks.
- Are there photos of loved ones?
- Tiny bits of personal memorabilia?
- Something to indicate office inside jokes or signs of team comradery?
- Do all the employees have their heads down staring at computers, or are they interacting with one another?
All of those can be an indication of whether a company creates an environment where employees feel comfortable bringing their true self to the workplace. One final, easy way to get an idea of company culture is simply to ask the interviewer. If they give a response that seems well-rehearsed—and at odds with what you saw around the office—that might tell you something. If they speak passionately about the company, that can also tell you something else.
After the interview
Now that you’ve had your interview, it’s a good time to look within your network and speak with people connected with you and the firm to see if what you learned throughout the process matches up with how employees view the company. Most employees would be happy to have a quick chat or respond to an email about their workplace—and if they aren’t, that might also tell you something. Speaking with current or former employees outside of the “work-day” should provide confirmation or reinforcement for what you observed, or possibly give you more insight into the true culture. Regardless, it is a simple and often-overlooked way to get a better understanding of a company.
Throughout all this research, keep in mind that there is no right answer. As important as it is to have a true understanding of a company’s culture, it’s just as important to know what kind of culture you would flourish in, which is also impacted based on your professional personality. A professional environment does not have to be stuffy and strict, nor does a flexible, creative environment mean there are ping-pong tables in every room. While many offices look similar, the difference is in how employees comport themselves. If you’re looking for best of both worlds—professional and welcoming, hard-working and flexible—consider exploring your future as a financial professional.
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2023-153944 Exp. 04/2025