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Topics: Career Development
If you are applying for a new job, how do you figure out the culture of the organization?
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When applying for a new job, you might not have a very great insight into the company culture (especially for a PM/scrum master). It might be a good organization building good products but it might offer resistance to change and new suggestions. The PM/SM role is dependent on how much really your organization empowers you. Every program/project/team would need a different strategy. But, if you are not empowered then you land up just being a figurehead and just doing whatever management tells you. How can figure out if this organization is really for you?

Assume that you don't have friends there or no reviews on the internet for the PM role/SM role. All you have is the job posting (which obviously would have all the cool stuff in it with industry buzzwords) and the rounds of interview in which you have met employees of the organization.
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Try communicating with employees you have met, ask questions on job satisfaction, work-life balance, collaboration, leadership, work environment, anything else you want to know.
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Given the constraints that you mentioned, you best chance to gather this information is during the interview. Ask to look around the office and maybe talk with a few of the other employees. You can also ask questions that will help you get a feel for the culture. Prepare some "What if" and "How will the company handle" type questions. And listen closely.
I interviewed for a job once and was just getting an odd feeling. The interviewer mentioned that they will pay for a cab if you work past the time that the Metro closes. The Metro stops operating at 11 pm. My follow up was to ask how often that occurs. He stumbled with his response. Also, the man never stopped staring at my chest (and before anyone comments, I was wearing a suit with a high neck-line) They were interested in me, but I was not interested in them anymore.
So just be hyper-aware during the interview and question anything that strikes you as odd.
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Shweta -

1. Leverage Glassdoor or similar sites to get third-party intel but take that with a grain of salt

2. Even if one of your first-level contacts doesn't work there, look at your 2nd and 3rd level contacts in LinkedIn and if you are comfortable contact them

3. If you get an in person interview, read the vibe of the place - are folks looking overly stressed or do they look enthusiastic? Look at the physical layout and whether the environment encourages collaboration.

4. If you get to a 2nd or 3rd interview, ask if you can shadow someone performing a similar role. If the hiring manager has nothing to hide, they shouldn't be concerned about this.

Kiron
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1 reply by Mayte Mata-Sivera
Sep 12, 2018 1:54 PM
Mayte Mata-Sivera
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Generally I did from 1 to 3...never thought about the shadowing. I'll note it just in case :)
Network:1669



When I go to the first time to the company, when I see the environment, when I see people movements, when I make my own elicitation while I am waiting, I can known about the company culture indeed. But if you do not know about culture by the book (models, research, etc) then you will not know what to see or what to focus to understand culture. So, my recommendation just in case you did not make that, start for understanding on related to culture by the book.
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The interview is your best opportunity, prepare for it suitably, not only questions to ask the interviewer, but also to chat with anyone else you meet- on the reception desk, in the car park, anywhere, just try to get some impression of people's attitude to working there. If they are really loving it or hating it it will come across.
Network:7



The gatekeeper when you first enter the company or come in contact via phone is your first clue- Are they interested? Are they rushed? Do they just want to move you along? The second thing is during the interview I like to ask questions about the attrition rate for Project Managers and why did the last few leave? Were they promoted? Or did they leave the company entirely for a new opportunity. Finally, as others have mentioned speaking to those in the company you can come in contact with can provide helpful insights.
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2 replies by Andriani Chaudhry and Shweta Pai
Sep 12, 2018 12:46 PM
Shweta Pai
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Excellent suggestions, Karen! Regardless of their answer, these questions can cause quite a stir and would be interesting to check out their response. That response could be cues on what to expect!
Sep 12, 2018 2:11 PM
Andriani Chaudhry
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These are excellent suggestions! I think when a candidate is observant and have these in mind as they enter an interview, s/he would also be able to gauge if s/he wants to be a part of the org.
Network:38



Sep 12, 2018 12:43 PM
Replying to Karen Wiley
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The gatekeeper when you first enter the company or come in contact via phone is your first clue- Are they interested? Are they rushed? Do they just want to move you along? The second thing is during the interview I like to ask questions about the attrition rate for Project Managers and why did the last few leave? Were they promoted? Or did they leave the company entirely for a new opportunity. Finally, as others have mentioned speaking to those in the company you can come in contact with can provide helpful insights.
Excellent suggestions, Karen! Regardless of their answer, these questions can cause quite a stir and would be interesting to check out their response. That response could be cues on what to expect!
Network:9355



Sep 12, 2018 10:38 AM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
...
Shweta -

1. Leverage Glassdoor or similar sites to get third-party intel but take that with a grain of salt

2. Even if one of your first-level contacts doesn't work there, look at your 2nd and 3rd level contacts in LinkedIn and if you are comfortable contact them

3. If you get an in person interview, read the vibe of the place - are folks looking overly stressed or do they look enthusiastic? Look at the physical layout and whether the environment encourages collaboration.

4. If you get to a 2nd or 3rd interview, ask if you can shadow someone performing a similar role. If the hiring manager has nothing to hide, they shouldn't be concerned about this.

Kiron
Generally I did from 1 to 3...never thought about the shadowing. I'll note it just in case :)
Network:305



Sep 12, 2018 12:43 PM
Replying to Karen Wiley
...
The gatekeeper when you first enter the company or come in contact via phone is your first clue- Are they interested? Are they rushed? Do they just want to move you along? The second thing is during the interview I like to ask questions about the attrition rate for Project Managers and why did the last few leave? Were they promoted? Or did they leave the company entirely for a new opportunity. Finally, as others have mentioned speaking to those in the company you can come in contact with can provide helpful insights.
These are excellent suggestions! I think when a candidate is observant and have these in mind as they enter an interview, s/he would also be able to gauge if s/he wants to be a part of the org.
Network:1550



I agree with Kiron here.
I would try to read through the company's website and social media profiles to see how the team members present themselves.
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