In the wider job market, the concept of ‘cultural fit’ is becoming increasingly important.
Yet, for those looking at graduate jobs for the first time it’s easy to underestimate the importance of a company’s culture.
Studies have shown that cultural fit could play a greater role even than skills and background.
Especially for graduates with limited work experience, companies will be looking to see if your values and personality will align with the company environment.
If you’ve got through to the interview stage, the chances are they think you’re qualified to do the position in a professional capacity, so it makes sense that at this stage their focus is likely to be elsewhere.
If you want to succeed, it’s important that you figure out a company’s culture before you go in to interview.
If your values don’t align, it can have potentially huge morale and productivity issues.
What do you want?
For this reason it’s worth considering what kind of company you’d like to work for.
If you find you have to alter your own personality to fit to a company, you’re unlikely to be there for very long.
If you’ve done an internship or placement, you may already know the culture you want to work in.
Don’t forget this goes both ways. While many people are looking for graduate jobs in a fun, social environment, you might find that a competitive, success-driven office suits your personality and goals.
In this case, the easy going, social SME with a table tennis table and office drinks on a Friday might not be right for you.
- Do you want a rigid corporate structure or do you want to be challenged creatively?
- Do you want to be given responsibility quickly, or receive lots of training?
- Do you want a busy, social office, or a calm focused environment?
- Do you want work to supplement your lifestyle out of work?
- Do you want to work as part of one big team or be able to work independently?
Research what they say
Chances are you’ll be sent a document with some information about the company and what the environment is like. If not, don’t be afraid to ask who you’ll be meeting and try and find out as much as you can about them online.
If you’ve developed a relationship with your point of contact at the company, then don’t be afraid to ask a few questions.
Your next step is to check their official information outputs. Start with their website, but be careful to look beyond the ‘About Us’ section. If you trawl the whole site you’ll start to pick up keywords and expressions, and will get a good general feel for what the company values.
The site may give the sense of a corporate, organised, slick operation, or something more approachable and friendly.
Next up is the company’s blog and social media. Often this is the outlet that will give you a better impression of the day-to-day culture at the company. If they’re posting lots on social about funny goings on in the office, or hilarious content, the chances are this will be a top-down directive to give off a fun, sociable image.
What are others saying?
Next step is a nifty little tool that not many people of heard of. Yep, it’s time to Google. The difference here is that you’ll be able to get an impression of their values and culture that hasn’t come directly from the company themselves.
Take a look at news pieces on the company, and scour the web for realistic testimonials on what the company were like to work with. This will say lots about how the office operates.
If you’re struggling, check out Glassdoor, which has company reviews from the people that work there. They offer a fantastic inside track on the company, the reviews are anonymous and cover the genuine perks of the job as well as the things that need to be improved on.
Take what you see with a pinch of salt though, they have no way of checking the information is accurate and you can get false reviews at either end of the scale.
Research done, time for the big day! Ask for a quick walk through of the office when you get there, which gives you a great opportunity to gauge working conditions, environment and how friendly the rest of the staff are.
If it’s a big company, make sure you see the department you’ll be working in. In all companies there exists different pockets of culture and activity which can vary hugely, particularly in larger organisations looking to hire a graduate.
During the interview think about everything that’s being said. Again, repeated words or phrases can give you an idea of the top-down company values that are being actively instilled. Think about whether they’re responding to your questions positively, or with aggression.
This might feel like it’s an indication of how your personal interview is going but actually it could be indicative of a friendly atmosphere or a more competitive, pressurised environment.
Remember you aren’t the only person being interviewed! Interviewers will normally ask if you have any questions and this is a great opportunity to test the waters for the type of company culture you should expect.
Beyond asking them to explain the company culture outright, question them on the managerial style of the company. This gives you an opportunity to understand how clearly defined the hierarchy is, and the freedom that their employees are allowed.
Another great question is to politely ask how the person who did the role before you fared. You’ll be able to find out where they succeeded and where they failed, giving you invaluable knowledge on how you’ll be expected to perform if you secure the role.
The key to finding out about a company’s culture isn’t just to make sure you land the job. Even as a graduate, you want to make sure you fit the company, or you’ll find yourself miserable or out of work pretty quickly.