How to Find Out if a Company’s Culture is Right for You, with Dorianne St Fleur
In order to find a job where you will thrive, it’s essential to determine if the company’s work culture is the right fit for you. Do you thrive in structured work environments or do you need to work remotely? During the interview process, ask tactical, specific questions about the company’s culture and determine if it fits your needs. Dorianne St Fleur, HR practitioner and diversity/inclusion enthusiast joins the Find Your Dream Job podcast to examine how to identify if a company’s culture is a good fit before you accept a job offer.
About Our Guest: Dorianne St Fleur
Dorianne St Fleur is a HR practitioner, Diversity & Inclusion enthusiast and career and salary strategist based in New York City. She is also the creator of the online career coaching boutique, Your Career Girl as well as the host of the weekly career podcast called, Deeper than Work. Dorianne coaches, speaks and podcasts about how women of color can leverage their unique strengths to decrease the leadership gap in tech and finance.
Resources in this Episode:
- Check out Dorianne’s book “Deeper Than Work: How Women of Color Can Make More Money, Have More Impact, and Thrive in the Corporate World”
- New tool: Keep in mind these 7 warning signs before you accept a job offer, from Fast Company.
- Listener question: Alex Franklin, of Portland, OR, is passionate about politics and frequently uses social media to discuss political issues. He asks, is it okay to be politically active when looking for work?
- More from our guest:
- Go to yourcareergirl.com
- Subscribe to Dorianne’s podcast, The Deeper Than Work Podcast.
- Connect with Dorianne on LinkedIn.
Find Your Dream Job, Episode 155:
How to Find Out if a Company’s Culture is Right For You, with Dorianne St. Fleur
Airdate: September 5, 2018
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host and publisher of Mac’s List. I’m joined by my co-hosts, Leila O’Hara and Jessica Black, from the Mac’s List team.
This week we’re talking about how to find out if a company’s culture is right for you.
Most of us spend about 2,000 hours a year at our job. So, workplace culture can have a deep impact on our daily lives. Our guest expert this week is Dorianne St Fleur. She’s the founder of the Your Career Girl website. She says job seekers can’t take company culture for granted. She and I talk later in the show.
You’ve got a job offer. Congratulations! Before you say yes, however, you want to make sure the position is good fit for you. Leila has found an article that gives seven red flags to watch out for when you consider a new job. She tells us more in a moment.
You love politics. You share what you think about current affairs on social media and elsewhere online. Will this hurt you with employers when you do a job search? Should you keep your opinions to yourself? That’s our question of the week. It comes from listener Alex Franklin in Portland, Oregon. Jessica shares her advice shortly.
As always, let’s first check in with the Mac’s List team.
Leila, Jessica, how are you two doing?
Good, Mac, how are you?
Good. Well Leila you’re up first, because you’re out there every week searching the nooks and crannies of the Internet, looking for books, tools, and websites our listeners can use in a job search and a career. What have you uncovered this week?
This week, Mac, I have scoured the internet, as I always do, and I found a great resource from Fast Company.
Throughout our careers, we are all are on the hunt to find and accept the perfect job offer. Sometimes, when a job offer comes along, we are all too eager to jump right in without examining the company closer. But the reality is, you probably don’t know everything you need to know about the company’s culture, their values, and their work environment from one-to-two quick interviews. How can you really tell if this job is the right one for you?
Fast Company shared a great article that I wanted to share with our listeners called 7 red flags to watch out for before you accept a job offer. These are all big, glaring, warning signs that you should keep in mind before you say jump to say, “YES”, then find yourself regretting that decision a couple weeks or months later.
I wanted to share a few of the biggest red flags from this article that anyone who’s fielding job offers should keep in mind.
The first red flag is a company that doesn’t have clearly defined core values. When you’re interviewing with the company, ask them what their core values are that they strive towards and how employees follow those values on a daily basis. It’s one thing for a company to have core values outlined but it’s a big red flag if they can’t demonstrate how these values are guiding their weekly and monthly goals.
I really like that.
Yeah, that’s one thing that I wouldn’t have thought of but it’s definitely something you should think about. If their values aren’t aligned with yours, then that’s not going to be a good fit.
Anyone can just say what their values are but if they’re not actually following through with them, then that’s a problem. Being able to get some concrete data about that is really good. I wouldn’t have thought about that either.
Yeah, I liked it a lot.
Another more obvious red flag, but one you should still pay attention to is bad word-of-mouth. If you can, reach out to other people that are familiar with the company, or associates on LinkedIn who have worked at the company in the past. You can also check Glass Door and all of those company review websites. If there is a lack of positive things said about people’s experiences with the company, it’s probably not going to work out positively for you. But talk to people you trust first and see what they think before you just trust any anonymous internet reviewer.
It’s remarkable how effective those networks can be in communicating how bad things can be inside an organization. I think about an experience in my career where I did go to work for an organization that had a bad reputation and it was even worse than people said.
Yeah, I needed the job at the time. It turned out well in the end; there were some leadership changes but I had a pretty clear picture thanks to tapping into the word of mouth network that you’re describing, Leila, about what I could expect to happen.
I would also say that if you’re using LinkedIn, you can also look at how long people have been in those jobs. If there’s a lot of turnover, you can notice, that’s usually a big sign that there’s something going on in the culture or just in the company in general.
Yeah, that’s a great idea too, I like that a lot.
Finally, there’s a more subtle red flag that I wanted to share that you should really be paying attention to when looking at a company more closely. Observe the start and end of a workday at the company. This one might be a little bit trickier to observe but if you’re going in for an interview I think there’s a way you can observe their work day hours. A company with long or unreasonable weekly hours can be a major deal breaker if you don’t want to work super long hours every week like most of us probably. If you have a morning or late afternoon interview, see how employees who work at the company are arriving or leaving the office. Do they walk in early, get to their desk, and seem super happy and excited to be there? Or is everyone in the office running out the door when the clock strikes 5 p.m., eager to get home?
Those are observations you would need to make in person, then you can also go back to that word of mouth network we were talking about. Talk to people about, “Oh, do they have long work hours? Does everybody really enjoy working there? Is there a good work life balance?” Keep all of that in mind. Getting a job offer can be a really exciting time but I think this article shares some really important reminders about the considerations you should to keep in mind before you jump in too quickly.
Yeah, I like that, thank you.
Great suggestions, Leila.
Now let’s turn to you, our listeners, and Jessica Black is here to answer one of your questions. Jessica, I know you’re digging deep into the Mac’s List mailbag this week. What do you find there?
We have a great question from Alex Franklin, who’s here in Portland. He says,
“I frequently use social media to discuss progressive politics. This is something I’m passionate about but my dad suggests that I stop doing this and delete old posts so that I don’t scare off potential employers. His argument is that most employers want to avoid politics, so any external expression should be avoided. My take is that being active in these groups is the best way for me to attract the kind of employer who shares my values. I’d be interested in hearing your take on this. Is it okay to be politically active while looking for work? Or am I shooting myself in the foot?”
Alex, I think this is a great question and something that, again, has that variable answer of “it depends on who the employer is.” which is no fun at all but is just the truth. It also depends on the type of job that you’re looking for or the industry that you’re seeking to work in. If your industry is in politics or social justice, then absolutely, I think being politically active is extremely important, and I would argue, a necessity for your job.
I do agree with you that, in this day and age, it’s clear and “normal,” to share one’s values. I think employers, especially, are doing much more of that as well, of making their own stances clear on their own websites and being more politically active in other ways as well. That can sometimes help you align with employers that you’re looking to work for. I would also say that your dad is not wrong. I don’t think that you should avoid it altogether; I do think that there is merit to sharing how you feel on certain, particular issues but if it’s too much or the type of language that you’re using, I would be cautious about that area. Be respectful, be diplomatic, share how you feel about something, and share that you’re taking a stand and taking…however you’re taking action on the things you feel strongly about. But don’t be disparaging to other parties or other people in general because you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot if you find an employer or a job that you love and feel that you’re a great fit for but it comes back to haunt you because of something you said.
Those are my particular pieces of feedbacks. Do you guys have any else to add?
I think that’s really apt Jessica. I can’t really think of any other things to add. I would just say that if it’s something that’s really important to you and something that you’re really passionate about, then yeah, feel free to speak out about it. Just be careful what words you use and don’t say it in a way that would offend people or make employers take a second look and say, “I don’t know if this person is the right fit for this organization.”
I’d love to hear what you think, Mac. Having been in a political organization and working with a lot of people.
I agree with your point about that kind of online comment being appealing to political organizations or elected officials who agree with that perspective. I think you’re right about that. I also think you’re even more right about the importance to be respectful.
I think that’s true for everyone, be respectful.
Yeah, because you can take a position and an employer might disagree with what you say but what they’re going to pay attention to is how you say it.
If you do it in a disrespectful and embarrassing way, that’s going to reflect badly on an employer because you’re representing that brand and they’re going to have second thoughts about hiring you. You may not get an interview as a result. You have to recognize that you will be Googled. We all will when we apply for positions or contracts or any opportunities. What we need to ask ourselves is what will people see? We want it to put our best foot forward.
That’s right, I agree. Good, thank you.
Thank you both.
We’ll be back in just a moment. When we return, I’ll talk with this week’s guest expert, Dorianne St Fleur, about how to find out if a company’s culture is right for you.
We live in a digital world. What we do online can make all the difference in a job search.
Consider this: In a recent survey 98 percent of recruiters said they use LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to find candidates. If you’re not on these platforms, you’re invisible to employers.
Yes, social media can be overwhelming. Especially for baby boomers like me. That’s why I built my free online course, How to Wow and Woo Employers Online. In three lessons, I show you how to make the most of social media in your job search.
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To sign up for this free course, visit macslist.org/wow.
Now, let’s get back to the show.
Now, let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Dorianne St Fleur.
Dorianne St Fleur is a HR practitioner, diversity and inclusion enthusiast, and career and salary strategist.
She is also the creator of the online career coaching boutique, Your Career Girl. She hosts the weekly podcast, Deeper than Work.
Dorianne coaches, speaks, and podcasts about how women of color can leverage their unique strengths to decrease the leadership gap in technology and finance.
She joins us today from Jamaica, in New York.
Dorianne, how are you?
Dorianne St Fleur:
I’m doing well, Mac, thank you so much for having me on. I’m so happy to be here and talk to you today.
It’s a pleasure to have you and we’ve got a very interesting topic. I know it’s one you feel strongly about. It’s company culture and how to find out when you’re doing a job search if a company’s culture is right for you. Dorianne, let’s start with company culture itself. How do you define that? What does that look like?
Dorianne St Fleur:
Yeah, I’m so glad that we’re starting with the definition. I think company culture is something that is thrown around a lot. A lot of people talk about, “I’m looking for someone who will fit into my culture at the company”, or job seekers say, “I want to find a place with the right culture”.
Just to level this and make sure that we’re on the same page, how I define culture are those unseen, unsaid, intangible behaviors, ideas, and traditions that every company has. It’s the behaviors that people reward in the different companies. If you think about the company you work for right now, or the in the past, those little things, like the way in which we hold meetings. The way in which we speak to speak to each other. The way in which we dress. All of these intangibles all make up a company’s culture.
What kind of factors contribute to a company’s culture? How does a company come to be the way that it is?
Dorianne St Fleur:
Yeah, I think it’s really based on the company’s values and whether or not the company has actually stated it’s values: “These are our four pillars”, or “These are our eight principles”. It can be that formal, or it can be something, again, that’s unsaid and people just kind of know what the culture is. It’s really at the core of what the company values. What sort of behavior do they reward? What sort of behavior do they punish? How do people all come together? What makes up the status quo? I think, at the core, it’s the values, it’s the people that we hire into these companies and how they continue to support those values. All of this is a cycle that continues to build upon itself and creates that company culture there.
So, you’re a job seeker and you recognize that company culture matters, because you’re going to be spending so much time every day in that environment. How do you figure out, when you’re on the outside, what that culture is like? What clues can you look for or follow, either online or once you’re inside doing interviews?
Dorianne St Fleur:
Yeah, I think the first step, honestly, is we might take it for granted, Mac, and we might say, “Well, we know company culture is important”, but I don’t think a lot of job seekers do know it’s important or they don’t think about it during that process. They’re not empowered enough to say that, “I’m going on a job search, and yes, I want to find another opportunity but I am also in the driver’s seat here. As much as I’m being interview for this role, I’m also interviewing this company.”
I think that step number one is to realize that you are more empowered than you think. There’s a lot that you can do in this process. You have the right to think about, “Where do I want to spend my time?” We spend most of our time at work. We spend more time with people there than we do with people in our homes. We should enjoy where we are and enjoy who we’re with. Step number one is to understand that, “I am empowered in this process, and I actually can be deliberate about the culture that I’m seeking.”
I’d say step number two is to ask. We can think about what’s important for us in a culture. What type of environment really motivates you as you’re looking for your next opportunity? What motivates you? What makes you happy? Where do you think you’ll thrive? Then start with some informational interviews about companies that peak your interest. Ask those questions. “What sort of behaviors are praised here? What sort of people thrive here? This is what I need in an environment; would you say that the environment that you work at is conducive to that?” These are all questions you can ask before you even get on the interview.
Then once you get on the interview, I think it’s important to imbed those questions in the process. For example, if work life balance is something that’s important for you, you need a culture that values being able to do things outside of work. If you have a family, or if you have another business you’re running. If you are a part of your local church or charity or whatever it is, find out what are the thoughts behind that. “Do people work at all hours? Is it frowned upon to take a day off to go volunteer someplace?” There are definitely ways that you can imbed these questions into your process. At the end of the interview when they ask, “Do you have any questions for me?” Use that opportunity, not only to ask the business related questions and those prepared questions that you have, but also dig into the culture. Think about the things that you need and make sure that you’re asking the right kinds of questions.
I’d say lastly, pay attention, open your eyes. When you’re walking into that company and you’re looking around, are people laughing? Are people with headphones, heads down, and no one’s talking to each other? Does it seem lively? How are people dressed? All of the things that are important to you, look around and pay attention. During that process, look out for clues that let you know, “Would this culture be one where I would thrive?”
Dorianne, I really like your emphasis on the fact that a job seeker is in the driver’s seat. They can, in fact, ask questions about culture and they don’t have to take it for granted. What suggestions do you have for people to help them figure out how to determine what parts of company culture are most important for them? How can they get clear about their own priorities when they’re considering what matters to them in a company culture?
Dorianne St Fleur:
Yeah, that’s a really good question, Mac. I think the first thing is to really do some reflection and understand that there’s no such thing as the perfect culture. Every culture will have some areas that you really love and resonate with and some other areas, not so much. Let’s take a little bit of pressure off as job seekers and realize that there is a prioritization that you’re going to have to do. There isn’t any place that’s “perfect”, but there is a place that aligns well with what my priorities are.
Once you realize that, now start to think about what motivates you? What type of environment do you need? Be really specific about like, “Do I need windows?” “Do I need to be in a cubicle?” “Do I need to be in an office?” “Do I want an open area.” Really think about the physical layout of what you want, what types of work style do you work best in? Where would you like your co-workers to be? Sit and reflect around that. Think about past jobs that you’ve had and what really worked well about those environments versus what didn’t.
Also think about what makes you happy. I know it may sound fluffy, “Happiness at work?” It is possible to be happy at work. What sorts of things do you enjoy? It can be as simple as snacks. Being at a place that has free snacks. Or access to places for lunch that you really enjoy. These things may seem small but they really do play into the culture, that you’re going to be there. Then also think about things like yes, work-life balance. The hours that you work and what type of work you’re doing. All of that feeds into it as well.
Really start to list all of these things out, and then what I like to do with my clients is say, “Okay, now that you’ve put all this out there, let’s take it a step further and think about what are the non-negotiables?” Tying it back to the fact that nothing is perfect. There won’t be a place where every single thing that is on your list is accounted for. But think about, “How do I rank order these things? Is my commute more important than the snacks that are there? Is the type of manager that I have less important than the type of colleagues that I have?” Think about, what’s the order of importance. How do these things matter? Then drill down into what are your non-negotiables? That’s where you can start this process.
If they are your non-negotiables, then you know, “If I don’t have these things I will not be happy, I will not be engaged, I will not thrive.” Those are the things you hone in on and make sure that your next opportunity has those things. Everything else will just be gravy on top, right? If they have it, great. If they don’t, fine. Really be honest with yourself about what you need.
Understand that what you need is different from what I need, and also, what you need now is different from what you needed five years ago. This is an ongoing process, this is a work in progress. Trust that where you are right now in your career, you know what you need, you know what you want. Sit down, have that honest conversation with yourself, think about what the non-negotiables are, and then go from there.
I’m curious, Dorianne, do you see a difference in generations about what matters in culture? For example, I would guess, and I know you work with people in all different stages of their careers, but I would guess that Millennials care a lot more about flexibility than perhaps Boomers. But what’s been your experience?
Dorianne St Fleur:
Yeah, I don’t like to talk about generational differences in broad strokes like that. I think the bigger differences just come into play where people are in their lives. For the most part, yes, if you’re a Millennial, you’re in a different stage in your life than a Boomer but sometimes not. I think that it’s just depending on what your priorities are and where you are. When I think about my own career journey, I consider myself a millennial, I am an elder millennial, I guess that’s what they call me. Right now, I need to make sure that I have a flexible schedule where I can take off to go to my daughter’s play or go on vacation when she’s off of school at the end of the summer. Whereas, a couple of years ago, that just wasn’t my focus and wasn’t what I wanted. I still wanted flexibility but I wanted it for other reasons.
Then I have some millennials who are like, “No, this is the prime of my life, I’m not really tied down right now. I want to make sure that I can work as much as I can, make as much money as I can, and really climb the ladder.” I really think it just depends on where people are and what their goals are. I don’t want people to think, “Oh I should be doing this”, or, “I should be doing that.” Think about literally where you are right now and what you need to thrive in your career and then go from there.
You mentioned asking questions during the job interview process, and pretty direct and candid about that, in doing your research. What about online research? Are there sites that you recommend that people look at to get clear about a company’s culture?
Dorianne St Fleur:
Yeah, I think everyone knows about Glassdoor.com. I think that’s always a place to start. There’s also a site called FairyGodboss, which is similar to Glassdoor in that there are company reviews and salaries, but it’s geared towards women. Then there’s also just Facebook. Ask your friends, ask people you know. On LinkedIn, you can personal message people who work at companies you could potentially be interested in. I think we’re in a space right now where there are a lot of avenues for people to understand where employers stack up when it comes to culture, and what employers are doing right, and what they’re doing not so well at. It’s really up to the job seeker to be creative and figure out how they can find out information about their company’s culture.
If you have a job offer, and it’s one you’re excited about, but you don’t feel good about the company culture, do you recommend people turn down a job? How do you make a choice like that?
Dorianne St Fleur:
I would definitely recommend that people take a long hard look at things. I think we’ve said this a couple times so far, Mac, but we spend so much time at work. Yes, the money may be amazing, and you may be in a great part of town, or a really exciting industry, but you’re spending so much time there and if you don’t feel like you belong or you don’t feel like the culture is conducive to what you need. If you feel like it’s more for extroverted, type-A people and anyone who’s different form them will not thrive, or if you feel like you’ll have to pull all nighters or work twelve hours a day, where you have these other obligations outside of work, these are things you should really take into account. You shouldn’t make yourself miserable.
I think job seekers find that, yes, they may say, “This is a great opportunity, I’ll take it”, and within three to six months, they’re ready to do something else. If you don’t take the time to really be deliberate about the culture that you’re looking for and make sure that you’re finding some place that aligns with the culture values that you need, then you’ll end up unhappy.
I guess the short answer is that, yeah, I would suggest that you really take a hard look and consider turning it down if it doesn’t meet at least your non-negotiables.
Okay, well great advice, Dorianne. Now tell us what’s next for you.
Dorianne St Fleur:
What’s next for me…As you know, I’m always trying to empower and support women who are looking to climb the corporate ladder. Anyone who is in technology or finance and really looking to get that next promotion, negotiate that next raise, or land that dream job with a company that really aligns with their values in what they’re looking for in a culture. I am coaching women through that process.
I know you also have a lot of great resources on your website. I had a chance to check out your blog and listen to an episode of your podcast. Listeners who are standing by with notepad and pen can jot down the url yourcareergirl.com, which is where they can find more about you, your company, and all of the great free resources you offer job seekers.
Dorianne, thanks for being on the show today.
Dorianne St Fleur:
Thank you so much, Mac, it’s been a pleasure.
Likewise, take care.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio with Jessica and Leila. What are your thoughts about my conversation with Dorianne? What do you two think?
Yeah, I thought she had a lot of great points, Mac. One of the things that struck me that she touched on was that company culture isn’t just a culture. It encompasses all these other factors like work-life balance, the hours that you put in on a daily basis. Just the dynamics between employees working at the company. Those are all things that fall under the umbrella of company culture that you might not think about.
Yeah, I liked her emphasis on that, too. The proximity to restaurants around work. That struck me as something I don’t think people think about a lot.
Yeah, so it can mean all of these different things that you should be considering before you decide to work for a company because if those things don’t align with what’s important to you, it’s not going to work out.
Yeah, I really liked that as well. That it’s not just the time inside the office, it’s all of the factors that encompass that, and I think she delivered all of those messages in a really powerful way of giving a lot of people, myself included, things to think about when you think about company culture.
I also liked her emphasis on the evolution of your needs about company culture; that it’s not always going to be the same things you need that you had in the past, and you’re never going to have the same needs in the future. The importance of checking in with yourself on a regular basis about what you need to give yourself that work life balance or to support the needs you have to allow yourself to thrive in the hours that you are at the office, and making sure that it’s the best possible fit.
I liked her emphasis on the importance of figuring out what you want, the individual. Every company has a different culture and while it might not be a good fit for you, it may be a fantastic fit for someone else. I think about places where I wasn’t happy, as happy as I would wish with a company culture, but I looked around me and there were other people who just loved it. They were in the right place and they figured out what mattered to them, and they found it and they thrived as a result.
Yeah, I think it is really important to just know what you need to be happy. I liked her point about how happiness isn’t a fluffy ideal. It’s something that will really bring value to the work that you’re producing as well. It’s important to think about what does make you happy because it benefits in a lot of ways.
Then search that out and have those informational interviews, and talk to people about where that is, of the things that you need.
Agreed. Well, thank you both, and thank you, Dorianne, for the great conversation.
I want to share a special announcement with you. Three years ago this month, we recorded the first episode of this podcast. Since then, we’ve published a show every Wednesday.
That’s 155 episodes! We’ve also produced more than 50 bonus segments. That’s more than 200 programs in all.
Along the way, we’ve created a community of thousands of listeners. We’ve shared with you, our listeners, actionable tips from career experts around the world.
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I say all of that just to say, thank you for your support!
We’re excited to begin our fourth year of production. Starting next week, we’re moving to a new format.
We’ll keep showing up every Wednesday morning in your podcast feed. But in future shows, we’re going to focus on interviews alone. I will start hosting the show alone.
This change will let us have more in depth conversations with our career experts. As a result, you the listener will get even more practical job hunting advice and tips. We plan to keep releasing once a month a separate interview as a bonus episode with a successful job seeker.
Jessica and Leila, I want to thank you both personally for being such great co-hosts. You’ve done a terrific job. Obviously, you’re not going anywhere; we’ve got plenty of important work for you to serve our community here at Mac’s List. It’s been such a pleasure hosting the show with you.
Thank you, Mac, it’s been a pleasure.
Thanks Mac, it’s been really fun. I’ve enjoyed it a lot.
Yeah, I’m going to miss having you on the show and I’m glad we’re going to continue being in the same office, working together.
Yes. Like you said, we’re not going anywhere.
I also want to thank you, our listeners, for joining us every week. It’s really a privilege to serve you. It’s such an honor that you let us into your earbuds. We get notes from many of you and we’re grateful to hear from you. Keep those emails coming, the Mac’s List mailbag remains open.
Yeah, our emails still work so if you want to send them to us…
Terrific. Thank you both, and thank you, our listeners, for downloading today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.
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