What Kind of Company?
Knowing a company goes beyond being able to recite their product lines and their CEO’s resume. What you really want to know is what it’s like to work there. “Corporate culture” refers to the general environment of an organization, and every company has one.
Take two extremes: think of the office culture of Facebook. It, like many other young companies, has a casual work environment that puts the comfort and happiness of employees first. Facebook as 15 offices all over the world, swarming with young employees taking full advantage of things like a bean bag lounges, kegs, skate parks, and employees even a place to do laundry without having to leave work.
Contrast those images with what comes to mind when you think of the IRS. You probably picture accountant-types in blue suits and white shirts, an atmosphere where accuracy is the first priority and innovative thinking is secondary. “Structure” is the key word, and everyone knows exactly where he or she fits in the hierarchy.
Most companies fall between these two extremes, and there are many other factors to consider beyond corporate structure and dress codes. As in most career choices, there are no right and wrong answers. The only goal is finding the best match between your personality and desires and what prospective employers have to offer.
The best way to determine what a company’s culture is like is to ask the people who work there. If you don’t know anyone whose brain you can pick, either network to find someone, or take careful mental notes when you come in for an interview. Observation is a keen tool. You also may be able to find some information on the Internet.