Thinking of moving to another company? First check its corporate culture Unknown 2014/06/15

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Finding the right cultural 'fit' is vital to a successful career move. If you join a company with a corporate culture that you find uncomfortable, you could find yourself demotivated and dissatisfied. And once you fall into this state it may be difficult to get yourself out of it. Hence it is important to take the time to find out as much as possible about what the organisation is like - before committing yourself to a move.

The trouble is that organisational culture is hard to assess – especially from only a brief meeting. That is why it can be helpful to adopt a fairly structured approach in the interview. Don't make the common mistake of many candidates and rely solely on your intuition, as you might easily miss important clues.

The best results come from researching the company beforehand, consciously observing the environment and people's behavior. Then in the interview you can ask specific questions about aspects of the culture that are important to you. Planning them in advance reduces the risk of forgetting to mention something significant.

For instance, in the interview, ask to see the company's mission statement. It can be illuminating, setting out the organisation's long-term direction and goals, its underpinning beliefs and values. However mission statements are frequently aspirational. The reality may be quite different. Ask to what extent the organisation feels that it achieves its mission statement. Ask to see the organisation and departmental chart. A steep hierarchy or highly centralised structure is often bureaucratic and inflexible. People who value autonomy may be stifled. Conversely, those who like clear career paths and lines of decision-making are unlikely to feel comfortable in a fiat or decentralised structure.

The degree to which an organisation has systems for managing its staff is indicative of the value placed on developing and nurturing its people. Find out how performance is appraised, and what opportunities exist for training and development. If these are limited, staff are unlikely to count for much in the company, and joining the organisation could lead you nowhere in the long term.

Staff are your best source of information about the corporate culture. If you have the opportunity to talk informally, ask what they most like or dislike about the company. After all, personal impressions based on experience will give you greater insight into the reality of working there than anything else.

Corporate cultures do not change overnight, so it is worth trying to find a culture that will suit you from the outset. If you join a company that encourages and rewards behavi0ur you do not personally value, it could be a career move you live to regret.

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