Why is Company Culture so Important? (For Candidates)

Written by: Lucy Walters
Published on: 10 Jun 2021

Why is Company Culture so Important?

Company culture is built from the goals and values held by an organisation and the attitudes and behaviours it demonstrates. It can either be deliberately cultivated or the result of a series of actions over time that have given the company a unique standing in its field. When searching for your next pharma job, the company culture of the organisations you research should be something you pay close attention to, as it will play a huge part in your overall job satisfaction.

In this article, we look at why company culture is so important, and how you can learn more about a company’s culture beyond reading the policies they present to you and the benefits outlined in job adverts and descriptions…

Why is Company Culture so Important?

As an employee, you’re more likely to enjoy your work if your values, goals, and needs align with the company’s, as your work will have an impact on something you personally believe in. You’ll also be able to build relationships with like-minded colleagues who also share these values, creating more opportunities both for networking and socialising.

Poor company culture is the reason that 1 in 5 UK workers quit their jobs. Even if you hold all the qualifications and experience required for a role, this doesn’t guarantee that the working environment offered by the company is one that you’d thrive in. It’s tempting to be drawn in by good salaries and unique benefits, but it’s important to take the time to understand a company’s culture and consider how motivated, productive, and satisfied you would feel working in the environment they offer. Doing this extra research will also help you to better understand the role you’d play in the company as a whole, as well as the expectations you’d be asked to meet.

How to Identify and Understand a Company’s Culture

Most companies will have documentation outlining certain policies and benefits that contribute to their overall company culture, but this won’t necessarily give you a realistic vision of what your working day could look like. Before you apply to a role or prior to attending an interview, you could do the following to find out more about the company culture:

Research the company beyond the ‘About Us’ page

A company’s ‘About Us’ page will usually outline its history, goals, and general information about the company’s speciality. This is a good starting place, but also look at the following:

  • Client list: Especially if you’ve been working in the industry for a while, this may help you to identify trends in the clients the company works with and will give you an idea of how the business they conduct aligns with their values.
  • Blog: Some companies ask employees to write posts about their job, especially in terms of what their day-to-day looks like, so this is a great way to get further insight into the way people work in the company.
  • Social media: This will give you a better idea of how the company interacts with its clients or customers and its online voice.
  • Reviews: Places like Glassdoor are a good place to find out what current or previous employees think of the company. Also look for client testimonials to get a clearer image of the reputation the business has within the industry.
  • Team page: Look at how the information about a company’s team is presented. For example, does the page contain professional black and white headshots of its employees with details of their experience and qualifications, or are the photos more fun and informal, accompanied by personal facts and anecdotes?

Reach out to contacts

If you have a contact who either works for or has previously worked for a company you want to join, reach out to them and ask for an informational interview to find out more about their experience. When asking questions about the company, be as specific as possible. Instead of asking things such as ‘Do/did you like working at X?’ be more specific:

  • Are there good opportunities for progression in the company?
  • How much responsibility did you have over your workload?
  • Did you spend time outside of work with anyone from your team/department?
  • How were your achievements celebrated in the company?
  • What was the working environment like?

Get shadowing experience

This is a great way to see the company dynamics for yourself and can give you a better insight into what a career could look like there. Click here for more advice on how to get shadowing experience.

If you do go ahead and apply for a job and you’re invited to an interview, you can also do the following to learn more about the company’s culture:

Pay attention to your surroundings

Especially when you’re in the waiting area or walking to and from the interview room, pay attention to the following:

  • How are employees interacting with one another?
  • How is the space decorated?
  • Do people have personal effects on their desks?
  • How are the workspaces arranged?
  • Are people working independently or collaboratively?
  • Was the receptionist friendly?
  • How are they treated by other employees?
  • Are people eating at their desks, or leaving together to have lunch?
  • What is the office setup like?
  • Are employees close together or spread apart?
  • What is displayed on notice boards?
  • Are they full of corporate information or are they more employee-focused?

Ask the right questions in your interview

You should always prepare questions to ask at the end of your interview, but it’s important to plan a few that could give you more of an idea of the company culture, such as the following:

  • How do you celebrate success?
  • What would my day-to-day schedule look like?
  • How much work is independent and how much is teamwork?
  • What opportunities are there for progression in this role?
  • How much creative freedom would I have in this role?

You could also ask for more details on a specific part of a company’s overall mission that speaks to you personally. For example:

  • I saw on your website that you plan to reduce your carbon footprint by 2025. Do you have any specific goals for achieving this?
  • I saw on your website that you plan to improve diversity in your leadership positions, how do you plan on doing that?

These questions will depend on what’s most important to you personally, but they are a good way of finding out how exactly a company is working towards its mission. 

Ask for evidence

Like the example above, ask for more information about how a company is actively working on things they champion. For example, if they promote good career progression, ask them for an example of someone who started out in your role and progressed further in the company.

Reflect on how you’ve been treated

Think about how you’ve been treated during the application process. Consider the following:

  • How organised was the interviewer?
  • How well did the interviewer communicate?
  • Did you have to chase up with them?
  • Did the interview feel more like an interrogation or a friendly conversation?
  • How were you informed about the interview/decision – were you sent automated emails or were you talking to a human?
  • How did you feel right after the interview?
  • Did you have a positive impression?

This is a good indication of how you’d be treated in the company, although your interviewer may not always be the person you’ll be working with.

Make Sure You Know What’s Important to You…

Before you start your job search, make sure you know what’s important to you and what type of environment you want to work in. Make a list of what values are important to you and the type of environment you think you would work best in, and refer to this when researching the companies you’re applying to, making sure that they are as much a good fit for you as you might be for them.

Visit PharmiWeb.Jobs for more careers advice or to start searching for your next pharma job.