As a career co-pilot, Lloyd has created a new advice series titled “Dear Lloyd” to answer your burning career questions, anonymously. Inspired by the greats of advice column writing, we anonymize or generalize questions, so ask away!
Dear Lloyd, I’m looking for my next job, and the most important part to me is finding an organization with the right team and right culture. How do I figure this out in the interview process? –Culture Connoisseur
Dear Culture Connoisseur,
You ask a great question, as there is plenty of data to back why company culture is key for organizational success (including the bottom line) and individual success. To get additional perspectives on your question, we reached out to Friend of Lloyd, Lauren Hodgson. Lauren is Head of Employee Experience + Employer Branding at Pluralsight (ranked on multiple Fortune Best Company/Workplace lists) and spends a lot of time thinking about this specific topic.
Lauren emphasized the importance of your question, saying, “Yes, your future team and culture is where the magic happens! It can be tricky to uncover true team dynamics in just a few interactions during the interview process, but there’s a couple of things you can do.”
Here is Lauren’s list of three ways to assess culture during the interview process:
1. Do your research.
In doing your research, explore past the interview process to understand the team better. Check out their reviews on Glassdoor and Comparably and even better, their response to those reviews. Hop on LinkedIn, see which employees you are connected with and do a quick call or take them to coffee to hear their experience. Attend a meetup or event they’re hosting and get to know the people that work there. Talking to other people that work there is one of the best ways to understand what it’s like to work there.
2. Ask good questions.
In chatting with the team, try to ask questions like, “What’s the decision making process like?” “What are some of the philosophies of how the team creates?” “What obstacles are you facing as a team right now?” “What’s a problem you are solving right now?” “What’s the process for solving it?” These types of questions tend to uncover more of the why and how, which is important to understanding not just what they are working on but how they work together to get it done.
3. Observe it for yourself.
Interviewing for a company is a lot like dating, so take the opportunity to get to know them in a myriad of ways to see if it’s the right fit. During the interview experience, consider how they show up. Is the process more transactional or collaborative? Are there longer response times or proactive communication? Do they show up on time? With a beer in their hand? Or a mix of it all? It’s in these small moments where culture is created. So, look there. Culture is a living, breathing thing, built by all of the behaviors over time. And the more casual settings bring it out, like if you have the opportunity to go to lunch with the team or shadow them for a day. Observe the moments at the edges of the formal interview process to better understand their typical working culture. This is where you’ll get the best picture. It’s in these moments collectively that you’ll find an organization that is a good fit.
Lloyd also likes taking quick notes after conversations, as feasible, to keep track of gut reactions and colorful specifics for thank you notes. One note: there can be slight industry variations/organizational recruiting specifics, so just make sure you’re aware of those (i.e., some places may be less able to engage/or have rules regarding how to engage candidates during an interview process–or differing levels of beer in the office). If you feel more comfortable asking these questions once you receive a job offer from the company, that can be a good strategy as well.
Lauren closes by saying “There’s no one thing that will show you–instead, each interaction and response is a data point that will inform you on the full picture of what it’s like to work at that organization. Good luck!” Lloyd couldn’t agree more.
Have more questions on this career topic? The Lloyd team is available to discuss more so please reach out here!