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You probably discussed company culture and your working relationship with management and your new team during the interview process, but some things can really only be learned through observation. Amy Gallo, contributing editor of the Harvard Business Review, recommends asking if it would be possible to shadow someone for a day or half-day, ideally the person you would be replacing. If that is too big a request, they shouldn't have a problem with you sitting in on a meeting, which can also be hugely informative.
This might be a question you ask during the interview process, but if it didn’t come up, don’t forget to ask before you officially accept. Gallo recommends finding out what kinds of challenges the company is facing. Ideally, you’d want to know if any of those challenges are financial in nature, but beyond that, it’s important to know about any pain points employees are facing — and if there are plans to address them. Only you can know how much these issues will affect your well-being on the job, but the more you know, the more informed your decision will be.
Ana Recio, senior vice president at SalesForce, points out that a manager’s willingness to be open about company goals can mean they take transparency seriously. “Transparency is one of our core values at Salesforce, and we work to ensure all employees know what they are working toward,” she explains. Knowing how your work is furthering the company’s goals can also help you be more informed when it comes time to ask for a promotion or a raise.
This is another question that probably will come up during the interview, but if it doesn’t, now is the time to ask. “This question is a good way to get a sense of the company’s culture,” says Reico. “Ensuring a culture fit within your prospective new company is as important as your education, experience, and skills.” Even if this is something that you may have already raised with your interviewer or manager during the hiring process, it’s not bad to ask HR or the hiring manager for a chance to chat with a colleague about her personal experiences.
Gallo recommends also reaching out to people who have left the company for a more unfiltered opinion, as well. Here, a little LinkedIn sleuthing can be your friend. Be sure to take any gripes with a grain of salt — if it’s a disgruntled former employee, you’re only getting his or her side of the story. But if the picture you get does seem to jive with things you’ve already picked up on, that’s something to be aware of.
Kate Aronowitz, vice president of design at WealthFront, emphasizes that you want to make sure you’re set up for success in your new role. Knowing how and if you are going to be trained can be a good indicator of how the company is going to invest in you. If there’s no formal on-boarding or training process, that should help inform your overall view of the company. Of course, smaller companies may not have the resources to do something like this, or maybe you’re an independent worker who will relish the challenge of figuring it out on your own. But once again, the more information, the better.