We talk a lot about interview preparation such as becoming familiar with the organization, wearing proper interview attire and positioning yourself through non-verbal communication when in the interview.
When I discuss interview preparation with candidates I believe it is also important to recommend that the candidate also assess the environment at the organization. You can determine a lot about an organization’s culture if you simply be alert to various cues.
Paying close attention to the workplace and people will allow you to get a better sense of the company culture, and in turn, can help you determine whether it’s a good fit for you.
Interviewers can tell you what they want about the environment and personnel but your own first-hand observations will be far more useful. Not only are you being evaluated, but you should be evaluating the company and its people. Gain a sense of the environment and its vibe. If possible, you should also request to meet some potential co-workers.
Look around and see how formal the setting is. Do people have personal items on their desks? Is there informal and casual conversation in the hallways? Is the feeling relaxed or tense? Does everyone seem like they are on an urgent mission? These are easily made observations.
So, while you’ll still want to use the interview as your chance to make a great impression and ask important questions, you should also think of it as an opportunity to evaluate the role, the culture, the company’s leadership, and the boss.
The first impression a company decides to give visitors (interviewees or others) can often indicate their philosophy on how employees are treated, as well. A warm and friendly greeting by someone who seems to genuinely care if you’re comfortable is a great indicator of a company with a thriving and happy environment.
In interactions, do the employees seem friendly and supportive of each other? Does the workplace have energy? Is it a place where people actually want to be? A big part of that is just watching the genuine and outgoing ways people interacted with each other.
Do the employees look happy? This isn’t something you can figure out in your pre-interview research. When you arrive, take note of whether or not the receptionist or security guard is friendly. This will be the first person to greet you so his or her attitude may be more important than you’d think. Do employees smile at you or acknowledge your presence? This can tell you a lot about the overall environment as well.