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Group of employees collaboratingOne of the most challenging things to assess in an interview is the culture of the hiring company. An interviewer will always present the company’s culture in the most flattering light possible. If the interviewer is from human resources, rather than someone who will directly supervise you in the position, it can be even harder to get an idea. But company culture can play a large role in work satisfaction, so how can you tell from an interview whether this is a place you want to work?

Before you even sit down for an interview, start with the company’s website. Do they have a clear mission statement–or a mission statement at all? A company lacking a mission statement may not do a good job of rallying employees behind a common goal. When employees have a common goal, there’s often greater collaboration, which leads to stronger morale. No job is perfect, but morale is essential for getting through the more challenging days.

Next, observe the current employees as you walk through the building. Do you hear a lot of active conversations or do workers appear solitary? Do employees appear relaxed or tense? Listen especially for interactions between supervisors and the workers who report to them. These seemingly mundane exchanges can tell you a lot about the company’s values.

Even if you might not get the clearest picture, ask questions about culture during the interview. You can pick up on cues such as hesitations or a struggle to put into words what the company culture is like. Then, when the interview is over, check sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed to see if the company reviews match up with what you’ve been told. One poor assessment of company culture shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but multiple negative reviews–especially if they all center on the same issues–are cause for concern. 

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