A great company culture is key to success.

We know that a salary that meets expectations is important. So too are the right responsibilities and opportunities, but it’s a company’s culture that carries a lot of weight in a candidate’s decision-making process.

The make-up of a business and its environment all have an impact on a candidate’s experience and significant emphasis is placed on building one that’s going to both attract great people and keep them happy and engaged once they’ve joined.

Traditionally, the interview stage offered a chance to peek under the hood of a business before making any decisions.

Although never 100% certain you could gauge a company’s culture at this stage, they did give candidates the opportunity to look around the office, meet more of the team and get a better feel for what the company’s all about from a culture perspective.

Nowadays, with more and more interviews happening remotely, it’s become a lot harder for potential employees to assess a company’s culture. Harder, but not impossible.

Here are a few ways to help you evaluate and assess a company’s culture when interviewing remotely.

Be clear on what you’re looking for

Look at what you want and expect from your next role, both in terms of pay, bonus benefits etc. but also the values and ways of working you want your future company to prioritise.

For example, if being able to work hours that suit you and fit around your commitments is a must, have this in the front of your mind and don’t compromise.

Understanding exactly what these ‘must-haves’ are will help you identify any positives or negatives when on the call. Keeping the number pared down to a few non-negotiables will help focus your efforts on identifying cultural clues to the things most important to you.

Check how they stack up online

There’s plenty of information at your fingertips, so make sure you look for clues on company culture online – website, socials, review websites etc.

How do they talk about their teams? What content and imagery are they sharing that demonstrates the type of business they are? How do their senior leaders engage with their networks online?

Ask the right questions

You’ll no doubt have a few questions lined up to ask at the end of the interview and this is the perfect opportunity to get specific.

No one’s going to tell you they have a rubbish culture, so steer clear of questions like, “what’s the culture like”, that can illicit scripted answers. Instead, ask questions designed to address the culture must-haves previously identified.

  • How has your company culture changed with some or all of your team working remotely?
  • How does your team maintain strong bonds, even when working remotely?
  • What conversations happen daily on Slack or via email?
  • Where do you see the company’s values in action?

Use the interview process as your guide

How things are conducted from initial application through to interview stage should give some indication into how the company values its employees.

It’s worth paying attention to:

Their organisationif the whole process is filled with frustrations and feels chaotic, this could be an indication of things to come. However, in contrast, if the process feels seamless and the effort you’ve made and your time are respected, it’s a sign they value those they interact with and work alongside

CommunicationThere’s a noticeable difference between communication that’s timely and addresses any issues or questions raised vs an email that abrupt and altogether unhelpful. Again, how those involved in the interview process respond gives a great indication of what could be ahead.

BalanceAre you getting emails from the hiring manager or HR late at night or at weekends? On the one hand, this could indicate they don’t prioritise disconnecting or downtime, while on the other, it could show that teams are allowed to fit their work in around their own commitments – something to find out in the interview.

It’s important to remember that a company’s interview process is an invaluable indication of its values and approach to work. When interviewing remotely, use the above to your advantage to glean as much information about their culture as possible.

You’ll never be able to fully determine exactly what it’s like and if it’s right for you, but equipping yourself with as much information as possible certainly can’t hurt.

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