How Do You Evaluate a Workplace’s Culture?

Evaluating workplace culture can lead to enriched job fulfillment. “Is this the place for me?” Well, only you can find out. Look within at the values you hold dear and begin your search for the ideal workplace. Two industry experts offer up insightful advice on how best to evaluate a workplace and get the most from your job search experience.

By Mariah Flores 

“Is this the place for me?”

A question we’ve all asked ourselves at one point or another as job seekers. We yearn for a sense of belonging while at work, where we spend a large portion of our adult lives. We all want to be able to show up as our authentic selves and contribute to a company that will embrace such authenticity with open arms.

There are several checkpoints within your job search, from the initial Google search to the final offer, allowing you multiple chances to decide: “Is this the company for me?”

A fantastic way to determine if a certain organization or company best suits you is to specifically evaluate its workplace culture. Easier said than done, right? While some may find the task intimidating, this evaluation undoubtedly pays off at the end of the day.

Career expert Shanna Hocking strongly advises that before saying “Yes” to a prospective job offer, you should stop and think about the company culture. This integral query, best explored during the interview process, can aid in your ability to find purposeful, meaningful employment.

I talked with a few career experts and thought leaders from the 2022 LinkedIn Top Voices in Job Search and Careers on how you can best evaluate a workplace’s culture.

Finding your ideal workplace culture

You as the job seeker play the most important role in evaluating workplace culture. It’s on your shoulders to take the first steps toward finding a company that matches your “needs and wants”.

Dr. Jasmine Escalera, a career and confidence coach for women of color and 2022 LinkedIn Top Voice, believes that we should look inward when first thinking about workplace culture.

An African-American woman sits at her desk, in front of her laptop, contemplating her requirements for workplace culture.

“I think it’s really important that the individual asks themselves what they are looking for in their career next and what the company needs to have in order for them to thrive,” she says. “What’s important to you and what are your particular values for your career and also for your life?”

Dr. Escalera also reflects on her younger self who, like many eager career newcomers, valued wanting to learn the most. Work-life balance was not at the forefront of her mind, therefore not essential for prospective workplace cultures.

“I wanted to go in and I wanted to make leaps and strides immediately,” she reminisces.

While checking in with yourself and gaining some perspective on what you actually want in a job, the ideal workplace culture starts to form. Any fogginess around your job search clears, allowing you to dictate what workplace culture best suits you.

Types of workplace culture

Workplace cultures vary, from the good to the bad and ugly.

O.C. Tanner, a software company focused on cultures at work, compiled a list of the most common workplace cultures. You’ll certainly encounter one of the following cultures throughout your career—if you haven’t already:

  • Adhocracy Culture
  • Clan Culture
  • Customer-Focused Culture
  • Hierarchy Culture
  • Market-Driven Culture
  • Purpose-Driven Culture
  • Innovative Culture
  • Creative Culture
A group of coworkers pose together, showcasing what may be a positive and happy workplace culture.

A few unique workplace cultures to be on the lookout for include, but are not limited to: “We’re all one big family here” culture, Startup culture, Mean Girls culture, High turnover culture, Remote culture, Growth culture, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) culture, and Fair Pay culture.

Dr. Escalera encourages job seekers to be conscientious as they work to identify the optimal workplace culture and environment. “Get clear on what it is that you need,” she emphasizes.

From there, she adds, you can begin to consider the style of questions that you want to ask the organization to really be able to hone in on if they’re going to provide you with all the specific things you need.

“It starts with getting clear on what you want, what you need to thrive and then formulating your questions that you’re going to ask during the interview process around those specific target things.”

Ask all the questions 

Nii Ato Bentsi-Enchill, founder and head coach at Avenir Careers and another 2022 LinkedIn Top Voice, urges job seekers to first check in with themselves, uncovering any values from which they can craft value-based questions for the entire job search process.

Possible work-related values:

  • Stability, security, growth opportunities, adventure, risk tasking, etc.

“It’s important to get grounded in what the most important values you currently hold are. From there, you can generate values-based questions in order to ask employers, to screen them and see whether or not they match your values,” he says.

Bentsi-Enchill additionally recommends listing out all the things you’re looking for in a career — the “non-compromisables”. Going in blind to any type of process, job-related or not, can lead to making rash decisions.

Evaluating workplace culture goes beyond just reading the company’s website or looking at a brief job description. Employers strategically market themselves on job search platforms, sometimes concealing their true workplace culture.

Both Dr. Escalera and Bentsi-Enchill lend job seekers a handful of helpful inquiries to ask during their search. Many folks find time to ask screening questions during their initial interviews. See the experts’ examples below:

  • “What’s your track record regarding handling situations of bias, fair pay, or  DEI?” “If a compensation complaint arises, what will happen?”
  • “Can I work collaboratively with other team members in this role?”
  • “How did your company support employees during the pandemic?”
  • “Do you host any virtual happy-hours or all-hands for remote access?”
  • “What does diversity look like at your company?”
  • “How are people welcomed and celebrated?”
  • “In what ways are you ensuring people feel safe within your workspace?”
  • “What is your company’s appetite for risk and/or innovation?”
  • “How much will I travel?” or “How often am I expected to travel?”
  • “What’s the experience of employees with families within the company?”

Don’t be afraid to ask direct, specific questions. A career is a commitment, so it’s in your best interest to show up authentically and ask authentic questions before signing on to any role.

“If you don’t ask, you won’t know,” cautions Bentsi-Enchill.

He also says job seekers should speak to both current and former employers of their target companies to get the most accurate picture of workplace culture. Former employees, who don’t have the same vested interest as current employees, may provide a more neutral view of their experience.

“If the feedback of current and former employees match, then you can feel confident knowing that you’ve gotten an accurate sense of the company culture.”

Finding an inclusive workplace culture can make all the difference. No more codeswitching, no more fitting into a box, no more not being yourself.

Asking questions and advocating for yourself during the job search, will save you a world of trouble and time. You deserve to be valued at work and only you can decide where best you fit.

By Mariah Flores, GET HIRED by LinkedIN News
Mariah Flores, GET HIRED by LinkedIN News Reporter