How to Find the Best Company Culture for You

Three people sitting around a table.

You’ve been searching for a while and finally found an IT job that appears to perfectly match your skill set and provide the potential for advancement you hoped to find. But what about the company culture?

Even if the interview went great and you've been presented with an attractive job offer, you need to be sure that the company has the right workplace environment for you personally.

Here are some tips: 

Define what you’re looking for

Just as companies are advised to define their own company culture before starting the hiring process, employees would be wise to consider what job fit they would prefer. Amy Patishnock, branch manager of Robert Half Technology in Pittsburgh, advises IT candidates to have a good sense of the workplace environment they’re looking for, in terms of people and technology.

“We tell IT candidates to be realistic about the environment they want to work in, as well as whether the company’s approach to technology matches their career aspirations,” says Patishnock. “Some candidates want access to the latest and greatest technology. Others may place more of a value on how the employees are treated through benefits, training and other perks.”

Use our salary calculator to help you prepare for salary negotiations.

Target your company culture questions

Specific questions asked during the interview can help answer job culture questions, says Peter Giaimo, director of permanent services at Robert Half Technology in Chicago. For example, ask the interviewer to describe the equipment and software the company uses, as well as their plans for technological growth in the future.

Also, ask about the dress code and work environment for IT workers. Don’t make the assumption that tech workers can be more casual. Today’s tech workers are likely to be more integrated into the business, and they might be responsible for requirements gathering or training, so it’s smart to ask about the expectations of the role.

To learn more about how people interact in the office, go beyond typical interview questions, advises Giaimo. Ask questions such as, “How does your team celebrate a successful completion to a challenging project?” Or, “How does your team relieve stress during a difficult assignment?” Finally, ask “Why do you like working here?” If the interviewer can’t come up with an answer pretty quickly, that could be a sign.

Although these questions may seem bold, don’t be afraid to ask them, agrees Patishnock. “If you’re not comfortable asking bold questions during the interview, it may be an indication that you would not be comfortable in that company culture.”

Hiring managers, here's how you can find the match for your company culture when hiring.

Take a tour in person and online

During your interview, ask for a tour of the office. Make sure you at least see the area in which you would be working. Take a look at the technology people are using in the office – are employees using headsets, flat screen monitors and laptops? If a company says they use leading-edge technology, is that statement backed up by the workplace environment you see?

In addition, pay attention to how people are interacting with each other as you tour the office, advises Giaimo. Are they smiling and talking to each other? Do people acknowledge you or do they have their heads down, busy at work? Be realistic about how you see yourself being able to work in this job culture.

Follow up online to determine if what you saw in person matches what you find online about the people you interviewed with and the company overall. “LinkedIn is a great tool,” says Giaimo. “Look up your interviewers and others at the company to get a sense of how long they have been at the company, what others have to say about them and their interests outside of work, if possible. Use this information to determine if these are people you think you could learn from or would like to work with.”

Trust your gut

“I am a fan of following my gut instinct when it comes to company culture – we advise candidates to do the same,” says Patishnock. If you’re still uncertain about whether you would be comfortable with the workplace environment at a particular firm after visiting it in person, go back online. Look at reviews of the company on Yelp or Glassdoor to get some other opinions. If there is a good mix of comments, they are probably accurate. Two or three angry posts indicate one unhappy employee, most likely.

In addition, a good recruiter can give you excellent insight into company culture, emphasizes Giaimo. If a recruiter has worked with a company over time and has placed people in jobs, he or she will have a strong sense about what types of employees would be a fit for the workplace environment.

By doing a little homework before you begin, as well as asking questions, observing the environment and trusting your instincts, you’ll be well on your way to comfortably finding a firm with the company culture for you.

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Note: This post has been updated. It originally appeared on 10/7/14.

Tags: Job Search