How To Assess A Company’s Culture—Before You Accept The Job

By Gerald Walsh ©

Interviews are an imperfect science. Think about it. You spend maybe one to three hours in meetings with the employer, where everyone is on their best behaviour.

Then, if you are offered the job, you have another few days to consider it before you have to decide if you should quit your current job and take this new one.

You are being forced to make an important life decision on a fairly small amount of information.

Some will argue the employer takes the same risk. That’s true. Both sides are taking a risk. But the consequences are bigger for you if things don’t work out.

How do you assess a company’s culture to determine if you will be a good fit?

This is not an easy thing to do. After all, you’ve probably been to your potential employer’s workplace only a couple of times and met only a handful of people. It is almost impossible to judge, from these brief interactions, whether you will be happy there.

So it’s incumbent upon you to do your due diligence to find out if this is the place for you. Here is what you should try to find out:

Will I like the work?

Will I like the people, including my boss?

Will I be given an opportunity to learn and grow?

Will I be compensated fairly for my work?

Do my values align with the employer’s values?

Here are steps you can take:

1. Get to know your immediate boss better. This is your most important relationship and one which will have a big impact on your happiness and growth. Perhaps suggest meeting them off-site for a coffee or lunch. In that meeting, you should develop an better understanding of what they are like as a person and as a boss. Try to get a sense of their values to see how they align with yours’. Find out how they measure success and what kind of feedback you will receive.

Related: Do you work for a bad boss or a good boss?

2. Meet with your prospective co-workers. They will give you valuable insight on what it’s like to work there. Ask what they like best about the company. What they like least. Find out about career growth and what learning opportunities they have received.

Inquire about the “real” work expectations of the boss, like overtime and weekends. Find out how they relate to each other on an interpersonal level and how well they function as a team. Learn about how success is rewarded and failure addressed.

3. Speak to outsiders like former employees, customers, suppliers and consultants. They should be able to give you an unbiased, objective assessment of the company’s culture. For former employees, ask why they left the company.

4. Learn more about the organization’s style. While you are still deciding whether to accept the offer, your immediate boss (or other senior managers) will be happy to meet with you again. Hopefully, you asked good  questions in the interview but here’s your chance to drill down further.

Ask about the kind of career path you might expect, and how promotions happen. Ask about their biggest worries and concerns for the future. Ask about the good and bad aspects of the job, encouraging the boss to be open and honest with you. Ask about their management style and whether you will be granted autonomy to do your job. In all cases, seek for examples that prove their point.

5. Trust your gut. Although you should never make an important decision based on intuition alone, it does play an important role when combined with other logical evidence. Once you’ve completed the first four steps, sit back and do some soul searching and ask if you fit in that organization. In the end, you need to trust your own judgment.


To share your thoughts on this blog post, please write me at

Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career. You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh