Question: "Why is the concept of corporate culture important to job-seekers -- and how do I go about understanding it?"
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
What is corporate culture?
At its most basic, it's described as the personality of an organization, or simply as "how things are done around here." It guides how employees think, act, and feel. Corporate culture is a broad term used to define the unique personality or character of a particular company or organization, and includes such elements as core values and beliefs, corporate ethics, and rules of behavior.
Why is understanding the employer's corporate culture important?
Because the organization's culture will affect you in many, many ways, such as hours worked per day and per week, availability of options such as flextime and telecommuting, how people interact with each other in the workplace, how people dress for work, benefits offered to employees, office space, training and professional development opportunities, perks -- just about everything related to your time at work.
How do you, as the job-seeker, uncover the corporate culture of a potential employer?
The truth is that you will never really know the corporate culture until you have worked at the company for a number of months, but you can get close to it through research and observation. Understanding culture is a two-step process, starting with research before the interview and ending with observation at the interview.
Before the interview. While you are researching the company for the interview, spend some time searching for clues about the company's culture. Review the company's annual report, Website, and other materials. Some companies even discuss their corporate culture on their Website (often in their career center section).
At the interview. Experts suggest arriving early to the interview -- unannounced if possible -- and spend the time observing how current employees interact with each other, how they are dressed, and their level of courtesy and professionalism. If there is a meal involved, observe if the employees drink alcoholic beverages with their meals. Ask questions about outside or after-work activities.
Learn lots more tips in my article published on Quintessential Careers: Uncovering a Company's Corporate Culture is a Critical Task for Job-Seekers.
This article is part of a series from The Career Doctor's Cures & Remedies to Quintessentially Perplexing Career and Job-Hunting Ailments. Read more.
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Dr. Randall S. Hansen is a nationally recognized career and job-search expert. He is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. .
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.