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Corporate Culture

By Matt Lowney

At some point in the interview process most employers will tout their corporate culture.  So, what is a corporate culture and why is it important to you as an applicant?  Basically, corporate culture is the company's personality and guiding principles that make it unique.  As a candidate it's important to know what makes this company distinctive in its industry.  What is the company doing to set itself apart?  Is the company a very structured environment?  Does it allow for flextime? 
When evaluating a company's corporate culture you need to consider two main points.  Does it live its values in its day-to-day operation?  And, are those values similar to yours?  For example, heavily deadline driven cultures may not be right if you get your best work done at your own pace.  Once you've decided what's important to you, you'll need to uncover a company's true corporate culture.  How?  Well, below are some ideas on how to learn more about a company.  You will need to look past the mission and values statements on the wall.

How do you research corporate culture?  First, you should go to the company's website and get a copy of its mission and values statements.  Then go online to see if there are any blogs or chat groups dedicated to the company and its employees.  If this company is a fairly large employer you'll be able to find online resources easily.  Keep in mind, however, disgruntled former employees are more apt to go online to give their feedback.   In addition, you should speak to current and former employees if you can.  They'll give you a good indication if the company is truly dedicated to involving everyone in the company's mission.

Has the employer achieved employee buy in?  I think some of the best questions I get during an interview from applicants are about corporate culture.  For example, “What does the company do to get employees to share in the mission and values of the organization?” or “How does your company engrain the mission and values into new employees?”  These are both great questions; because you'll get a real feel for whether the company has an ongoing program to involve employees in its mission and values.  However, if the interviewer just repeats the corporate mission statement on the wall, then you'll know that creating a mission and values statement is all the company has done to build a corporate culture. 

Gut feeling.  You need to get your research done prior to going in for an interview.  You should compare your research to the person who is actually giving the interview.  Do you feel like they are a good representative of the corporate culture presented on the company's website?  Or does this hiring manager, like many front line managers, feel that the corporate culture is something invented by senior management but doesn't apply to them?  If the interview actually initiates the discussion about mission and values of the company, then you have a good indication that the company has employee buy in to its culture. 

Matt Lowney is a corporate recruiter, radio host, and career consultant specializing in the areas of healthcare and information technology.  He can be reached at mlowney1977@yahoo.com for additional information about his services.