Ask Women in Product: How do I check if a company’s culture is inclusive?

Amulya Chirala shares a few simple but effective things you can do to assess if a prospective employer’s workplace culture is for you.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

This week’s question: What’s the best way to check if the culture of the company I’m applying at is one that is inclusive of women? I’m applying at several companies right now and would love to be better at assessing the culture and spotting telltale warning signs during the interview process.

Answer from Amulya Chirala

Amulya Chirala is a Financial Product Manager at OST

When you look at different companies during your job search, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the many factors that you need to weigh to decide if a job is the right one for you. Job changes often mean a change in your role, your compensation, and the logistics of your day-to-day work, and these details are often discussed during the hiring process. One additional factor that is not often discussed — and which will have a real impact on your day-to-day happiness — is the workplace culture. In this piece, I share some simple but effective things you can do to assess if a prospective employer’s workplace culture is right for you.

Do the basic research

Companies that make inclusiveness a priority will make it easy for you to learn about their culture. In fact, they’re likely to talk about that aspect of their company explicitly on their careers page.

Aside from checking what the company says about their diversity and inclusion efforts, you can also search for what other people say. A quick visit to Glassdoor, PowerToFly, and InHerSight will give you unfiltered information about the company’s culture.

If, based on your initial research, you aren’t 100% sure, go ahead and apply anyway because the interview process is a great way to learn more!

Reframe the question

While it’s natural to want to look for a workplace that is inclusive of women, your job search will be better served if you were to reframe your question as “What does a great workplace culture look like?” Inclusive and respectful workplaces are good for everybody, not just women.

With this new and broader question in mind, list down what you’re looking for in workplace culture. Be as clear as you can about what an ideal workplace culture means to you. Here are some prompts that can help you pin down what’s important:

  • What does it mean to you to be a ‘great teammate’?
  • What kinds of interactions leave you feeling energized?
  • What does it mean to you to give and receive feedback well?
  • Under what circumstances do you communicate best?

Your responses to these questions will inform what an inclusive workplace looks like to you.

Look for signals during the interview process

Anyone that has participated in hiring will tell you that the best way to find the right fit is to know what you want and then look for information to verify that the job makes sense for you.

Review the answers that you wrote down in the previous step, then watch out for signals as you go through the interview process.

  • Is your interview panel a diverse one? Companies that are heavily invested in inclusiveness often try to have at least one woman or underrepresented minority interviewing every candidate (even today, this is harder than you’d expect, especially for small companies, so the absence of a diverse panel is not in itself the worst thing in the world).
  • Does your interviewer share examples when you ask about the things that you value at work? When you ask questions — be it about learning initiatives, mentoring, and more — ask for specific examples. For instance, asking “What was the last industry event you engaged with?” leaves very little room for generic answers. Listen to the responses; both the content of the response and whether you even get a response are great indicators.
  • Can your interviewer describe how an employee’s performance is measured? You can get a lot of information just by asking one simple question: how is performance measured? Did the answer indicate that people know what is expected of them? Or did the interviewer struggle to describe how work is planned and managed?
  • Can your interviewer talk about the last person on the team to have gotten a promotion? What was their role? What did they do that earned them the promotion? The answer to this question gives you insight into what the company values.

If you’ve got a long list of questions, rank them in order of importance so you know what to do if you only have time to ask one question.

In conclusion

The process of finding the right fit is not too different whether you are looking for a company or a teammate. It boils down to doing basic research, being clear about what you want, looking for signals that indicate whether or not you’ve found it, and then having the courage to act based on what you’ve learned and the signals you’ve received. I hope this article helps you with your job search. Good luck!

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