Company culture is the defining sentiment of a business’ employees. It is a tone and atmosphere set by a culmination of factors, including a company’s mission, values, rewards and recognition programs, and community outreach. If an organization is like a person, the company culture is it’s psychology and personality.

When you’re on the hunt for a new job or a new career, and are serious about investing your time and energy into a company, then before you even think about accepting an offer, you’ll need to know just what you’re getting into. This means getting to know a company’s culture, and weighing whether it lines up with what you want and who you are as a person. No point trying to fit into a circular hole, if you’re a square peg.

But getting to know the personality of a business isn’t as easy as getting to know a single person. A company shows its colours from many different angles. Which means you’ll have to do some legwork to get the full perspective.

Thankfully, we’ve made this handy guide to let you in on the best information inroads for getting the scoop on a potential employer’s company culture. Let’s have a look!

The Receptionist

A receptionist/admin person is often the face of the company’s office. When you talk about first impressions and how they count, keep in mind that there’s a good chance that the first person you will meet when you go to meet a potential employer in person is the receptionist. Take measure of how they receive you. Is it a warm welcome, with smiles and niceties? Or are they strict and to-the-point, though polite? Ultimately, does their demeanour seem like what you would want from your teammates on a daily basis?

Do they seem stressed, or inundated with inquiries? A busy workplace can mean a successful business, but it can also mean employees are overworked, or lack the resources they need. Above all, no matter their approach, you should feel welcome and at ease.

How have receptionists embodied company culture at your previous jobs?

Current Employees

If you’re wondering what it’s like to be an employee at a certain business, then there’s no substitute for gleaning information from its current employees. Get your info straight from the horse’s mouth.

Whereas management and recruiters would love to paint a blemishless portrait of life at work, employees can give you the nitty gritty information about what it’s like to spend a day in their shoes, since, after all, they spend every day in them.

Be polite and reserved, of course. Remember, these people could potentially be your coworkers someday, and you don’t want to come across as anxious or needy. Express your curiosity by asking genuinely interested and engaged questions. People love to talk about their experiences, and if you frame it right they’ll gladly share the truth. Plus, you can suss out how well you’d get along with your actual coworkers, if you talk to the right people.

What would you tell a potential new hire about your current job?

Former Employees

While they may not have the latest information about business operations, previous employees are still a wealth of knowledge when it comes to company culture. And, more importantly, they are more likely to be completely honest with you, since they are not at risk of losing their job for speaking ill of their former employer.

This means glowing reviews can be taken with full confidence. Still take negative ones with a grain of salt, especially if you’re unclear about the circumstances of their parting ways with their old employer. Either way, former employees make great fountains of wisdom about the personality of a business.

What would you say about your previous employers?

Your Interviewer

Most of the interview process will be led by your potential employer, with them trying to suss out just who you are and if you would be a good fit. But there will always be opportunities for you to turn the tables and interview your recruiter about the nature of the job.

When given an opportunity to ask questions, you can make yourself appear professional and diligent while still learning what you need to learn, by asking the right questions. Such as

  • What makes your company great?
  • What is your company most proud of?
  • What sets your company apart?
  • What does a day in the life at your company look like?
  • What career development options do you support?

What other questions would you ask at an interview to learn more about the business?

Online Reviews

Any public-facing business will have at least some reviews online. These reviews can come from professional reviewers, such as the better business bureau, or from the general public, such as customers, or even current and previous employees.

Be sure to look at how people talk about the business in a social setting. Even moreso, pay attention to how the company reacts and responds to criticism and praise. Do their reactions seem in line with your attitude?

Always be aware that there will be some outliers when it comes to being a critic. Look for trends, and try not to focus on individual reviews too stubbornly.

Have other people’s reviews ever drastically changed your opinion of a business?

Social Media

More and more companies are making efforts to engage the public directly, using social media as a voice. These platforms can help you get to know the personality of a company by seeing how they interact with the world at large, and how they choose to present themselves from a branded standpoint.

Look at what types of social media they use. Are they more professional, sticking only to something like LinkedIn? Or are they more conversational and easygoing, choosing to make something like Twitter their main soapbox?

Take time to look back through their history and see how they’ve handled big events in the company’s past. Elements of their culture will come through both in and between the lines.

What company’s social media presence has most impressed you?

Good Ol’ Google

When you need to find something online, a search engine is the way to go. Searching across the web, and not just reviews or social media profiles, can help you spot outlying information about the company. It could be anything, from a newsworthy story about a humanitarian initiative, to a scandalous PR disaster that left a stain on their image.

Every little bit of information helps, and gets you ever closer to understanding what it would be like to be immersed in a company’s culture. And, while there are many different professional personalities that they can take, you’ll want to make sure you find one that aligns with your own. Your dream job should feel like a natural fit, not something you have to put on a costume to go to every day.

Armed with these tips, you’re ready to become a company culture detective, and sleuth out the truth about your next big potential employer!