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5 Ways to Probe a Company's Culture

A lofty compensation package, spiffy title, and corner office are all great characteristics to look for in a job -- but if you're looking for a happy job, a great cultural fit is equally important.

Unlike salary or benefits, a company's culture is much harder to quantify. It's felt in daily operations, and is the standard that guides everything from dress codes to company values.

"Because it is so hard to define and measure, people often overlook it in accepting a job. Also organizations hide the worst parts of their culture during recruiting," says Brad Brummel, Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Tulsa.

Brummel also says that culture applies to everything but can't be gauged by just one thing. As a result, it's best to go beyond a company website and do some research on a wider scale, using these multiple resources:

1. Twitter

Twitter has become a tremendously popular way to keep up with real-time company news. Some companies tweet links to industry news, staff blogs, and more. Northrop Grumman, a leading global security company, regularly tweets Air Force and aerospace industry news to keep its followers in the loop. Bryant Quan, the chief executive officer of Slickdeals, Inc. (the largest community-driven deal site), even tweets Instagram photos; like a recent company go-kart outing.

For deeper insight, find employee and management's Twitter accounts. Try searching the company name plus the terms "HR" and "jobs." Many professionals mention their company's name in their bio, which makes them easier to find. Also, check out which users the company is following to see what kind of sources are important to them.

2. Facebook

More companies are using Facebook to exhibit their culture, especially as a means to host company event photos. Aurecon, an engineering and construction company, is a great example of a company showcasing its behind-the-scenes culture. It posts updates and photos about award-winning projects, sporting events, and social initiatives to its Facebook page.

Similarly, Target's Facebook page is highly active and insightful about the company's values. It has more than 10.2 million fans, and you can see its profile is very community-based and engaging. You'll find lots of fan comments and giveaways--with an overall focus on community giving and family strengthening.

3. Google Alerts

Set up a Google alert for the company's name so that you receive notification anytime it's mentioned in the news. This is the most efficient way to stay on top of all that's being said about your business of interest. Go one step further and set up alerts for the CEO's name as well as that of your would-be boss (if you know it).

4. Informational Interviews

The purpose of an informational interview is to ask current employees questions about their company to get a better understanding of what you would be getting into. In other words, it's a perfect opportunity to ask about the corporate culture.

If you don't know anyone who works at a target company, then LinkedIn is a great starting point. Check out the company's LinkedIn page and see if you're in any common groups or have a mutual contact with any of its employees. Send them a message to see if they are willing to talk to you about the culture.

5. Third-Party Review Sites

Third-party employee review sites, such as CareerBliss.com, offer an inside look into the company from anonymous past and present employees. The great thing about these sites is they're neutral and not sponsored by businesses; they offer a transparent look into the employees' true feelings about what they do or don't like about the company.

Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, salary information, and a free career happiness assessment.



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