How hard should you look when trying to find the love of your life? How much time is too much time finding your soul-mate? Chances are, you'd say that finding that special person is one of the most important things you can do. That choice has profound impact on your lifetime happiness (or lack thereof). And you'd be right.
You want to find someone you love being around and spending time with. Someone that helps you move forward. Someone you have chemistry with. Someone that makes you better. Someone you can have fun with. Someone that shares some of your dreams -- despite havine some of their own. Someone you can respect.
Now, lets switch gears.
When looking for a company to work for, how much time and energy should you spend? Should you really be looking for a company you will love working for? And, what would you look for?
You'd want to find a company you love being around and spending time with. A company that helps you move forward. A company you have chemistry with. A company that makes you better. A company you can have fun with. A company that shares some of your dreams -- even though it has some if its own. A company you can respect.
See the similarities?
Now, some of you might be rolling your eyes a bit. "Surely," you think, "he's not suggesting I find a company to fall in love with..." You fall in love with people, not companies. And you'd be right. I'm not suggesting it -- I'm saying it.
Finding a company you can love working for can have a profound impact on your lifetime happiness.Why? Because just like finding love in your personal life, finding a company you can love also has profound impact on your lifetime happiness. We spend a lot of time at work. We build relationships. We learn. We challenged. We grow.
You owe it to yourself to actively choose where you want to work.
There are of course, differences. One big one is that when you join a company, you are usually not making a long-term commitment. You hope that it's going to work out. That the chemistry and fun will be there for years.
But, despite the differences, it's still worth it.
If you want to feel inspired, challenged, fulfilled, and happy with your work – and with the people you work with – you first must find the company you’ll love working for.
Start with Culture
Every company has a culture, whether intentional or not (some of the best companies are exceptionally focused on designing and defending their cultures.) Some are open and transparent. Others are process and results focused. Some are customer-centric while others seem to feel customers are a necessary evil.
No culture is right or wrong – unless it’s right or wrong for you. For example, at HubSpot we have a three-word policy for just about everything: Use good judgment. If you like guidelines and lots of guard-rails, you may not like working at HubSpot. Our “policies” might feel too loose, too vague, or too fluid. That doesn’t mean we’re right or you’re right; all it means is the level of autonomy we provide may not be right for you.
And that’s all that matters.
Here are some ways you can get a great sense of a company’s culture:
1. Check out the leadership team. A company tends to be a reflection (whether good or bad) of its leaders. Use the LinkedIn search tool to find people who work there. Check out their backgrounds. Take a look at their education, their career paths, their interests...
It’s pretty safe to assume that a leadership team filled with Six Sigma black belts will create a culture incredibly focused on process improvement. It’s safe to assume that a founder and CEO who has started five different companies in the last twelve years will value quick decisions, quick pivots, and an entrepreneurial mindset. It’s safe to assume that a company whose leaders rose through the ranks in a logical progression of roles will expect others to follow a similar career progression.
What we have done in the past informs our expectations and our actions; put yourself in the shoes of a company’s leadership team and think, “If I was one of them… what would I value?”
Then make sure those values align with your values.
2. Check out what its leaders say.
Most company leaders are active in some form of social media. (If they aren’t, that also tells you something about the company; whether that something is positive or negative is up to you to decide.)
Some communicate in a quasi-PR mode, their tweets, updates, and blog posts seemingly written by a corporate communications team. Others are more wide-ranging. (Again, neither is good or bad.)
Take Joel Gascoigne, the founder of Buffer (disclosure: I'm an angel investor in Buffer). His personal blog covers a surprising range of professional and personal perspectives: His thoughts on transparency, on letting people go, on the power of taking time to reflect, on what he does to be happy… if you want to know what it will be like to work at Buffer his blog has many of the answers.
3. Find out what customers say. A company’s culture is ultimately reflected in its employees and its customers; after all, the proof of a culture’s pudding is not just how employees feel but how customers feel about the company.
See what mistakes the company has made, and even more important — what it has done in response. See how customers feel about its overall service. See how it is perceived in the marketplace. All of us want our work to make a difference; make sure the company is making a difference for its customers. A quick way to do a blind reference check is to search Google or twitter for “love
4. Check out employee career paths.
Now look for any employees, current and past. Where did they work before they joined the company? How long do they tend to stay? What jobs did they take when they left?
Spend a little time digging and you’ll quickly get a feel for the kinds of people the company hires, the kinds of people it retains, and for the opportunities and growth potential.
5. Then ask questions.
If you’ve gotten this far and like what you’ve learned, go one step farther: Contact a few employees and ask a few simple questions. “What do you like about the company? What do you wish was different? Would you recommend working there to one of your close friends?”
Or contact a few past employees and say, “I’m thinking of working for Company X. I know you left the company… would you recommend working there?”
You’ll probably find that people on the extreme ends of the spectrum – those who love the company, and those who don’t – are the most likely to share those feelings. When they do, make sure to ask why they feel the way they feel. “I love working here!” is great, but you need to know why they love working there.
Analyze the Interview
Now let’s assume you’ve landed an interview with a company you think you’ll love working for. (Fellow Influencer J.T. O’Donnell’s posts will go a long way towards helping you with that part of the process.)
Don’t forget that while the company is trying to decide whether you’re a good fit for the job, you’re also trying to decide whether the company is a good fit for you:
1. Analyze the questions you get asked.
Interview questions should indicate not just what the job entails but also what the company values.
Some interviews will focus almost solely on technical competence. Others may focus on soft skills. Some may involve mostly behavioral questions designed to show what you’ve done in the past.
After the interview, think about the questions. If they seemed boilerplate it’s likely the company operates in a fairly conventional manner. If you were asked something unusual like, “What business would you like to start?” that should indicate the company values employees with entrepreneurial spirit, drive, and attitude, and is looking for people who embrace the differences in working for a startup instead of a corporation.
An example: If I interview you for a position at my company, HubSpot, I like to ask the following questions: 1) Have you read the HubSpot Culture Code deck (most people have — if not, it means they haven't done their homework). 2) What part of the deck did you disbelieve the most, and thought “that can't possibly be true…”? (or some variation on that).
2. Then ask your own questions.
When it’s your turn to ask questions, don’t just throw out a few you hope will make you look good. Ask questions that help you evaluate whether you really think you can fall in love with this company (which, to a smart interviewer, will definitely make you look good.)
Here are a few you should definitely ask:
“What will you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 days?” Maybe you’d love extensive training, or maybe you’d love to be turned loose. Maybe you hope to ease your way in, or maybe you hope to be immediately challenged. Maybe you love focusing on specific goals, or maybe you prefer a broader approach to performance.
Whatever your preferences, find out if the company’s expectations are aligned with how you like to work.
“What are the common attributes of your best performers?” Maybe the best work longer hours, or are methodical rather than creative, or expand current customer relationships instead of forging new ones, or seek out informal leadership roles…
Find out if the attributes of company superstars are attributes you also possess – if not, you won’t be happy in the long run.
“What are a few of the attributes you value most in your employees?” At HubSpot we value humility, effectiveness, adaptability, transparency, and remarkability (which we define as a superpower that makes a person stand out.)
But don’t just ask for the attributes. Ask what each means, and how it is manifested. With the right interviewer this will turn into a fascinating and revealing conversation; if it doesn’t, that should tell you something about the company.
“What do employees do in their spare time?” Happy people like the work they do… and they like the people they work with. It may not be important to you that you work with people who have similar interests – but if it is, ask. (If nothing else you’ll find out whether the interviewer knows employees as people and not just as workers.)
Put It All Together
Now put all the pieces together. Weigh what you learned in your early research, what you heard from present and past employees, and what you learned in the interview. You still won’t know for sure whether this is a company you’ll love to work for… but you’ll be a lot closer than you were.
Sound like a lot of work? It is. But, it's some of the most important time you will spend in your life.
What ideas and tips do you have for finding a company you can love working for? Please leave them in the comments — I'd love to read them.
Photo: Tom Merton / Getty Images