When you’re applying for a new job, it’s easy to focus on the job itself: do you have the required skills? Is it an opportunity you’re excited about? What’s the salary, and when is the application deadline?
But as well as this, it’s important you consider whether the company is the sort of place you want to work. Every job and every company is different, with its own unique culture that comes from the blend of its employees’ values, and the values that the company holds dear.
And working at a startup is very different to working at a more established company. So how do you work out whether you’ll be a good fit for the startup environment, the specific company, and the job you’re applying for?
BEFORE YOU APPLY
Ideally, you want to make an initial assessment of your company culture fit before you apply for a job.
For starters, take a look online: do they have a company page on Facebook or Instagram? These can give you a great, informal look at the company.
This lets you get a clearer understanding of what the company values, and taking some time to read value-related (rather than company-, industry- or product-related) posts can give you a real insight into the company’s culture – though you should remember that this is the company’s own account of their culture, and may not accurately reflect the day-to-day environment working at the company.
You can also read reviews of the company from current and former employees on websites like Glassdoor. This lets you read real accounts from people who have actually worked there – who better to share insights about what a company is actually like? Obviously, not every company will be listed, and if you’re applying to a job at a very early stage startup, chances are they won’t have any former employees to provide reviews, but it’s definitely worth a look.
DURING YOUR INTERVIEW
The other way to assess the culture of a company before you start working there is to ask about it during your interview. For example, you can ask your interviewer about their time working at the company: have they been with the company for a little while, or just a few months?
In an early-stage start-up, it’s likely to be the founders interviewing you so this will be less relevant, but you could ask something similar about how they came to be involved in the founding of the company. As well as listening to what they tell you, consider how they say it: are they obviously passionate about it and excited to share their story with you, or are they less emotionally invested?
You should also have a good idea about the company’s values from what you’ve read online, so ask about them: do your interviewers give answers that match up with what you’ve read? You can then ask for real-life, recent examples of these values in action.
For example, here at Cobloom we believe we should always be learning – and earlier this month 3 of the team attended the INBOUND16 conference in Boston, and early next month 2 of us will be attending a webinar that ties into a new tool we’re using.
ON THE OTHER SIDE
It’s important to remember that if building a good culture is something that matters to the company, the interviewers will also be trying to work out if you’d be a good fit to work there, or not.
For example, when I interviewed for my job here at Cobloom, I answered questions about my practical skills, and also about my professional values and way of working to assess how well I would fit in with the existing team.
Just like you will want concrete examples from the interviewer(s) about the company’s values in action, make sure you’ve got examples of your own.