Ok. Let’s think of ‘company culture’ as the personality of a company. It includes heaps of things like how the employees attribute to the work environment, the company mission, value, ethics and its expectations of you (as an employee).
If you start looking for or applying these above qualities to a company you’re interested in working for or who is currently hiring, then you might be surprised to find out how much or how LITTLE you have in common with them.
And make no mistake – your personal values aligning with your employer of choice is a HUGE deal, to both your future and theirs.
In large corporations, corporate culture is often a key part of the employer brand. You only have to look at the different graduate programs out there to see how company culture is used to lure students in. These organisations will take any excuse to talk about their culture.
However … did you know that (depending on your state) only 5-8% of students actually go into formal graduate programs.
Which leaves the other 92% + of students to take a more “normal” recruitment route.
Obviously when you’re getting ready to graduate, a huge question you need to be asking yourself is WHY you want to work for a specific company. There are tonnes of smaller companies out there that we don’t realise share values of the bigger companies that we all tend to strive for: you can get great company culture anywhere, so don’t discredit companies who you haven’t heard of through the grapevine.
When you’re graduating – yes it’s ideal to get that ‘dream job’ – but the most important thing is getting your foot in the door.
Bear in mind that the average employee working a standard 9-5 job will spend 40 hours a week at their workplace … that’s a whopping 2080 hours per year.
So when you are taking said “normal” recruitment route, and find yourself applying for jobs on seek and other notice boards, how do you work out what a potential company’s culture is like and whether or not it might suit you?
1 // What kind of management style do you like?
This will effect which company you choose to work at and with. You could for instance, enjoy a traditional management style where your role and responsibilities are clearly defined and there is a clear company ladder for you to aim to climb. Traditional management styles are found in more established companies.
Startup companies tend to work a bit differently where employees often have the opportunity to continually work across a number of new projects, and the management style tends to be more ‘hands on’ by everyone in the company.
2 // Does the company actually address its work culture?
An obvious question but one that you may forget to even check for. Pretty much every company will have a separate page dedicated to talking about its culture. This is your chance to find out what life would be like to work there and what benefits the company offers its employees!
Obviously these companies are huge, and maybe they’re not quite what you’re aiming for. However, from their career pages you can easily make sense of what they stand for, who would fit in their team and WHY you should join them.
3 // Is there a past or present employee that you can get in touch with?
I’m not suggesting you go around cold-messaging every LinkedIn connection you can find. You may consider reaching out and giving context as to why you are contacting them and how they may be able to help you.
If they engage with you let them know that you’re interested in working at XXX and if they would be willing to share with you what the work environment and culture is like.
Most people will respond to a clear message and are willing to share their experiences, good or bad!
4 // Use the interview to your advantage.
Seriously. What better way to suss if you are the right fit for the company, than by literally asking them yourself. Okay not in those actual words. But you get my drift.
An example of questions you could ask that may give more insight into the company culture –
> If the company does anything to encourage high performance.
> Is risk-taking encouraged, and what happens when people fail?
> How close-knit the team is aka does the office tend to do anything together after hours?
> What is your favourite workplace tradition?
> Does the company promote from within?
> Where does the company expect to be in the next three to five years?
Final word of advice: Don’t get suckered in by thinking company culture is just the shiny perks on offer.
At the end of the day you won’t know until you’re in there. Yes – if you are an avid vegan it doesn’t make sense to work for a leather goods company – because your values very clearly do not align – but don’t rule out what could be an excellent opportunity simply because you’re turned off by the initial first impression – like the decor of the reception (we’d like to exaggerate but we’ve heard tales of this).
An office overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge might look enticing but you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so don’t make the mistake of basing the start of your career on a materialistic incentive.