What’s The Firm’s Corporate Culture Like?

I was recently asked a question by someone I was interviewing for a position with a client.

“Jeff, I saw your website and I see you give people a lot of good advice. There are some people who are interning as part of their post graduate program and are now looking for jobs. When they are interviewing, they are finding that the companies they are interviewing with are not interested in their ability to think. They seem to be interested in their ability to quickly spit back answers to questions.”

He’s right. There are many firms that are interested in someone’s ability to answer obscure questions that have nothing to do with the job being interviewed for.

You learn something about an employer when they conduct interviews like this–they are not concerned with your ability to think; they care about you doing robotic work, kind of like in manufacturing or the white collar equivalent.

That’s true of the hedge funds that think they are clever when they ask brain teasers (why is a man hole cover round? Ans: It is only round in the USA. In other countries they may be shaped differently. In the US, the cover is round because the hole is round). These firms want to see whether you can work your way through a puzzle and think creatively under pressure. In fact, the answers to these brain teasers are readily found on the web.

I am someone with a Masters in Social Work. Whether you think the degree has any value, it teaches the notion of understanding how systems function.

There is a corporate culture in every organization for entry level professionals and, often a different corporate culture for sales people, experienced staff, midlevel managers and executive management.

There are different expectations and morays for people in different job categories and different businesses.

There is a different culture for the many categories of staff at a bank like PNC than there is at Morgan Stanley. Morgan Stanley has a different culture in each different category of function and experience than SONY.

Your job is to try to proactively understand the expectations and culture before interviewing and certainly before joining.


Go to LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and find someone who worked in the department at the level you would be joining and contacting them.

Ask them questions about what it is like to work there and what will be expected of you. What are raises like? Do they know your future manager? What are they like?

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