Why company culture is the most important thing to assess when looking for a job

by | Nov 18, 2021 | Career tips, Recruitment Insights | 0 comments

… and 5 questions you can ask to better understand it…

In my last job, I had everything to be happy: great colleagues, a challenging and interesting job in the field I always dreamt of working in, evolution possibilities, free ice-creams every other Tuesday… Perfect picture. However, after one year and a half there, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. I tried taking on new projects, working with other team members, discussing it with my colleagues but… I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, something was wrong.

What is wrong with my job?

In an attempt to make sense of what I was feeling, I went online to read some articles and found a link to the G.R.A.M.. At the time, I didn’t know Generations Recruitment at all, but the questionnaire description piqued my curiosity, so I took it. After a few minutes, the result came out: my dominant profile was “Sustainer”. As you can read on the description page of this profile here, this means that “You enjoy helping others and contributing to society. That is why you take your social values into account before taking any decision.” And BAM, just like that, there it was. My job was interesting, but I didn’t have the positive impact on society I needed to have to feel fulfilled.

One aspect of a job that is too rarely or too little discussed in job interviews is Company Culture. Company culture can be defined as the shared values, attributes, and characteristics of an organization. As Robbie Katanga says it, “Culture is how organizations ‘do things’.”

Company culture is key to your fit with a job

What could be more important to discuss when considering a new job than how your future employer does daily things, such as defining their strategic objectives, managing potential problems or crises, and treating you as an employee and a person? In my previous job, things were done mainly in a way that maximized financial gain, while I needed things to be done with a focus on people, and social issues globally, which led to a misalignment and lack of common motivations on the long run.

But how can I understand company culture?

There are many different aspects contained into “company culture”. Does the company put more focus on collaboration or on competition? Is the mindset entrepreneurial, with a hands-on approach or are the job descriptions very strictly defined? Are there a lot of processes in places or is it more informal?

5 questions you can ask to better understand it.

In order to assess this, here are a few questions you can ask the HR person or your potential future manager:

1. “How would you describe the company culture?” 

Simple and straightforward, this question will already give you the opportunity to see if it is clearly defined or quite a blurry concept that can’t be articulated simply and immediately. If you have the opportunity, don’t hesitate to ask this question to several different people to see if the answers are coherent. You can go further by asking concrete examples of the values announced.

2. “What are the KPI’s for this job?

What are the personal skills needed to succeed in this company?” > This will give you valuable insights on the personality traits that are important for the management, and what they value the most in their employees.

Pro recruter Tip

if the “ideal” profile described doesn’t fit your personal traits, it might be an incentive for you to take a step back and think seriously if this is the right job opportunity for you. Even a great job, in a company culture that doesn’t suit you will, in term, be detrimental to your mental wellbeing and to your work performances. For example, the organizational culture might value people who are highly competitive, like to start things from scratch and are very outgoing, whereas you feel best in a collaborative team that gives you the time to work quietly before presenting your results. Red flag!

Sophie Deprez

Recruitment Consultant, Generations Recruitment

3. “What is the management style used in the company?”

Is it a very structured management (that can be too controlling for some), or a very consultative management style that gives you plenty of autonomy (which can be unsettling for others)?

4. “How does the management assess and reward the performance of the employees?” 

With this question, you can discover whether only “hard results” count (such as financial performance or revenue), or if the company values other qualities as well. You can understand what levers are used to motivate people (is it only monetary, or do they offer other types of incentives as well) and see if those levers would be working to motivate you.

5. “How long have you worked here? What makes you happy to work for this company?” 

Based on the interviewer’s response, you can grasp more “personal” elements to the company culture and see if you find those exciting as well. If you do, this might be an environment you could thrive in too.

“Both the answers and the questions of your interviewers can give you valuable insights on which values are key to them, and a good first impression on how they work daily.”

Finally, on top of asking questions, you should pay attention to the type of questions they ask you. Are the interviewers exclusively focused on numbers and results, or do they ask about your personal needs to feel good in a company? Do they show interest in your personality and values, or only in your skillset?

Both their answers and their questions can give you valuable insights on which values are key to them, and a good first impression on how they work daily.

What is the culture that works best for you?

Now if you’re dying to know how the story ends and how I’m feeling now that I have had this breakthrough, let me scratch that itch: great! I am now matching great people looking for meaningful jobs with inspiring companies, and my personal values are completely aligned with those of Generations Recruitment, which makes me feel both useful and fulfilled.

If, like me, you are sensitive to a company’s culture and want to better understand which type would work best with your personal values set, take the leap and take our GRAM questionnaire: I promise you it can only make your professional life more meaningful.

So, what did you learn about your ideal company culture? Tell us in the comments!

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Quality & Process Improvement manager, Generations Recruitment
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