You scour job sites every night. Send in résumé after résumé. And (finally!) get the call for an interview. It's natural to focus on making sure your appearance, presentation, and elevator pitch are on point and that you don't forget your interviewer's name as you walk into an office for your big moment, but don't forget to look around.
A workplace environment can unveil important things, like a company's values, communication styles, and more. Here are eight things to look for:
1. Are there offices on the perimeter?
Perimeter offices signal that the company values upper management, and you'll notice these offices often have the best views. If there are a lot of different office sizes, they probably have a hierarchical culture. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you'll know that following a chain of command is how things get done in this office. Most likely, you won't be walking into the CEO's office to talk about an issue.
2. Are people talking, or is everyone heads-down at their desk?
Sharing ideas at the water cooler can be a good thing. Generally, if people enjoy their co-workers and it's a collaborative culture, you'll see some interaction even in the busiest of times.
3. Are people in conference rooms? Are there a lot of meeting spaces?
If so, collaboration is part of the culture, and you would likely receive regular feedback as an employee. This can be good and bad. Some organizations are so meeting-heavy that the only time actual work gets done is late at night. If you suspect this might be the case, schedule your next interview as late in the day as you can to see how many people are left in the office when you leave.
4. Is the break room well-equipped?
A well-stocked break room shows that the employer cares about employees and wants them to feel at home. If the environment is fairly stale, then lunchtime probably is as well. Think about how good it feels when you walk into the home of a friend, one with an amazing kitchen. A first impression is no different in an office. Look around. Are there any tables? Is it inviting? Does it make you want to take a break and recharge?
5. What's the technology like?
Could you work anywhere in the space and be untethered from your desk? Laptops are a good sign, as they're essential for being able to smoothly transition from a private client call to a group brainstorm or to a meeting at the coffee shop next door.
6. Is there a gym or flex space for yoga? Sit-stand desks?
This indicates that the employer cares about your health and well-being, and you wouldn't be just another cog in the machine. It shows an understanding that a balanced workplace helps to foster well-rounded employees who love what they do and come to work happy every day. Do you see sit-stand desks? That's a great sign! Sitting is the new smoking when it comes to health consequences, as you probably know.
7. Are there places to hide, or is it open with good visibility?
If there is an open office environment with good visibility between departments, generally trust is high within the organization. Transparency builds trust, as conversations and decision-making are out in the open and not happening behind layers of walls and closed doors.
8. When do people leave?
Sleeping bags under the desks are a bad sign! Late nights occasionally happen in any industry, but seeing how many people are there late is a good indicator of the hours. Can't get a late-afternoon interview? Do a drive-by after hours. If the parking lot is still full and the break room has a stack of flyers for takeout, late nights might be in your future.
A company's office space can be very revealing, offering clues about the employer's culture, hierarchy, and employee morale. You may dazzle HR so much that they want to hire you on the spot, but make sure the company is a place you want to be before accepting the offer.