When interviewing, observe employees

Dear Dave: I’m looking for new work and a new company. Everyone tells me I need to learn about the culture of a company to see if it is a fit for me. Why should I care? I just want a good job with good pay. Plus, how can I find out what the culture is like at a new company without working there? — L

Dear L: 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.

Culture is the environment that shapes your work enjoyment, relationships and attitude. In many ways, culture is like personality and is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, interests, experiences and habits that are generally unspoken and unwritten rules for working together.

If you want to be successful and enjoy where you work, you need to adapt to the company's culture — the company won't adapt to you. When I look at people I know in Rochester who succeeded in the corporate environment, they are ones who know and respect the company’s culture and build positive relationships.

Important: Do not take one person's word for what the culture is like. Try to talk to current and past employees, customers and suppliers, and anyone who may have intimate knowledge about the workings of the company. Also, look at the company's annual report, website and other materials. Some companies even discuss their corporate culture on their website.


If you interview

One Rochester human resources specialist tells me you should arrive early and spend the time observing how employees interact with each other, how they are dressed and their level of courtesy and professionalism.

During the interview, try asking one or more of these questions to get a feel for the corporate culture:

How are decisions made — and how are those decisions communicated to the staff?

How are employees and teams recognized for achievement?

What 10 words would you use to describe the company?

If you get a chance to privately meet with other employees try these questions to get a handle on the culture:

What's it really like to work here? Do you like it here?


How are employees valued around here?

Do you feel as though you know what is going on and expected of you?

Career coach Barbara Safani offers these tips:

1. If possible, schedule your interview early in the morning, late in the day or during lunchtime — look around and see if people may be required to come in early, stay late or work through lunch.

2. Ask to do a walk-through of the office — look for clues about the office culture. Is the set up cubicle style, big open spaces, windowed offices or a lot of closed doors?

3. Make small talk with the receptionist — you may gain valuable tidbits of information or see firsthand what types of people come through the reception area and how they interact with each other.

4. Note any interruptions during the interview. Did your interview start on time and did the person interviewing you interrupt the flow of the meeting to take phone calls or act like they are 1,000 miles away?

5. Observe preferred communication styles — look for the different ways information is managed and shared and how people really talk to each other.


Remember, success is getting what you want and happiness is wanting what you get.

Dear Dave: My boss seems to think that by "teasing" employees he is being one of the gang. Frequently, this takes the form of belittling someone. I wish I knew a way to let him know, without getting in trouble, that we don't appreciate his "humor."  — P

Dear P: I can only assume the manager means no harm and wants to just "fit in." Try this: Go to the manager and tell him you think some of the employees (leave nameless) are teasing and kidding a bit too much around the office and it has gotten out of hand.

Mention you enjoy a joke like anyone, but sometimes things hurt. I believe the manager will get the message and you were able to present the problem without pointing to him as the problem — and hurting your relationship.

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