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Yes, You Can Still Learn About Company Culture When Interviewing Remotely—Here’s How

By | Kat Boogaard |

There are a number of things you consider when evaluating whether or not a job is a good match for you. You need a salary that meets your expectations, responsibilities that get you excited, and a manager you think you’d mesh well with. But there’s another important factor that carries a lot of weight: company culture. The work environment will have a big impact on your experience and satisfaction in that role.

“It’s important to understand a company’s culture because you don’t just want to join an organization where you can do work, you want to join one where you can do your best work,” says Hannah Fleishman, Director of Employer Brand and Internal Communications at HubSpot, a company that lets employees decide where they want to get their work done.

Company culture is somewhat intangible and difficult to wrap your head around during the hiring process—and that’s even more true when that hiring process is happening remotely.

What if all of your interviews take place via video chat and you never meet anyone in person or see the office? Or what if it’s not just the hiring process—what if the entire company is permanently remote? Do they even have a company culture if they never work side-by-side?

Your concerns and head-scratching are completely valid. Understanding company culture from afar—whether the remote aspect is just for the hiring process or for the role itself and whether the position is fully remote or a hybrid, temporarily or permanently—adds a layer of complexity to an already difficult concept.

“First, forget the idea that culture is synonymous with ping pong, happy hours, and dogs in the office,” Fleishman says. “These things are the byproduct of operationalizing culture in an office, but they’re not culture.” Sure, those physical markers of perks play into a company’s environment and overall vibe, but they don’t make up the entirety of it. That’s good news, because it means you can assess culture in a meaningful way, even remotely.

But if you’re not looking for a stocked snack counter and lunch-break yoga classes, what should you be keeping an eye out for? Here are six tips to help you understand and evaluate a company’s culture before you accept an offer—even if you never step foot in the office.

1. Know What You’re Looking For

You probably have a list of must-haves you’re searching for in your next position. That should include not only the nuts and bolts like pay and benefits, but also the values you want your company to prioritize and the cultural aspects that resonate with you.

This prep work is particularly important when you’re going through the process remotely. Trying to understand every aspect of a company’s culture through video chats and internet research alone might feel overwhelming. So zoning in on the pieces that are most important to you means you can keep your antennae up for encouraging signs—and deal breakers.

Perhaps adequate work-life balance is important, and you want to find an organization that isn’t “always on,” especially if you’ll be working from home and are concerned about maintaining boundaries. Or maybe you’re looking for a highly collaborative environment, as opposed to one where people are constantly heads down in their own work.

“Pare down to three non-negotiable traits,” says Annie Nogg, a Muse career coach and an independent career and life coach who has guided several clients through remote hiring processes. Then you can focus your efforts on deciphering cultural clues related to your top three traits.

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