How to assess corporate culture


How can I assess a potential employer’s office space to determine whether its corporate culture suits me?

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners and has over 20 years experience in career-development consulting.

Always: Identify the culture where you thrive, and pursue that culture. Do you excel in more formal hierarchical organizations or informal, loosely organized structures? And remember, when leadership changes, the culture changes, too.

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Often, the address of a company will tell you all you need to know about the company culture. If they are located in the business district of a city rather than a funkier part of town, there is a good chance the office is more likely to be business professional than business casual, for instance. What is happening at the front desk? Is the receptionist working with equipment that is part of current communications technology plan or an obsolete phone system? If it’s outdated, that may be an indication of where investments in technology fall as a business priority.

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Sometimes: Ask current employees to describe the culture. If there are differences between what former employees have said, ask about that, and identify why. Take note of private office space. Are cubes or offices used? Are there many private conferences rooms being used? Also notice whether office doors are open or closed. This is a good indication of the how well the company collaborates on projects. And note the technology each person has. Are they limited, or part of each person’s repertoire of tools to work more effectively?

Never: Don’t compare one company to another and don’t disparage other companies. Don’t be threatening, judgmental or hasty in your assessments. If you find things lacking or not up to par, remember that those short comings may provide tremendous professional opportunities if you take a position with the company.

(By Elaine Varelas)