CULTURE

You don’t necessarily have to visit a company to learn about its culture.

DEAR KATHLEEN: How can I find out what the culture of a company is before I accept a job offer? Are online reviews dependable barometers of what I should expect? -- J.B.

Technology has made researching a company's culture easier than ever. So, when you're trying to determine if the culture is right for you, the company's website and social media accounts are good places to start.

Mike Simpson, co-founder of The Interview Guys (theinterviewguys.com), suggests following the company on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter before you interview, and checking out what he calls "one sleeper gold mine" -- YouTube.

"Many companies now post videos regarding their corporate culture, often even interviewing the employees themselves," Simpson says.

A company's page at Glassdoor, a reputable site that often includes employees' thoughts on the company's culture, is another option -- albeit one to consult with caution.

"Like anything you read online, you always need to be aware that fake and/or retaliatory or vengeful comments can exist, often not painting the most accurate picture of reality," Simpson says.

Katie Kocmond, campus recruitment manager for the staffing and search firm Addison Group (addisongroup.com), echoes that warning.

"When looking at an organization's online reviews, keep in mind that employees may be speaking about a particular instance specific to them that isn't necessarily reflective of the organization as a whole," Kocmond says. "One way a candidate can work through any doubts that result from research is to address them head-on and bring them up during the interview process."

"If the company has multiple locations," Kocmond adds, "try to research as much information about that specific role and location, rather than just conducting a basic overview of the role and company as a whole."

Spending time on-site is perhaps the best way to determine if you click with the corporate culture, according to Stan C. Kimer, president of Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer (totalengagementconsulting.com). If you get that chance, pay attention to the vibe you get as you walk the halls, sit in the lunchroom or speak with employees. "Do they look downcast and burdened, or do they really look like they enjoy working there?" Kilmer says.

Data on employee turnover, if you can find it, also can be valuable. "The higher the turnover, the higher there is a culture issue," Kilmer says.

What about asking past and current employees about the company, which is pretty easy to do thanks to LinkedIn?

"This is a somewhat delicate process that should be done carefully, as approaching strangers requires a little finesse," Simpson says.

DEAR KATHLEEN: How often is too often to change jobs? -- M.A.

That question has popped into my mind several times recently when hearing about employees -- most of the time millennials -- who have had multiple jobs by the time they're 30.

"Over the past 10 years, the trend of sticking with one company and climbing up the corporate ladder there has become less and less common," reports Katie Kocmond, campus recruitment manager for the staffing and search firm Addison Group (addisongroup.com). "More job seekers are moving from one organization to another, which allows them to increase their skill sets in a variety of areas, which in turn allows them to become more valuable and well-versed employees."

But how many moves are too many? Unfortunately, there isn't an easy answer.

"Every hiring manager and every company will have their own set of criteria when it comes to what they are looking for," says Mike Simpson, co-founder of The Interview Guys (the interviewguys.com). "Some might be more willing to look past 'bouncing around from job to job' than others, and others might even see it as a strength" that shows how much great experience you've had.

A general rule of thumb: Prospective employers want evidence that you've dedicated yourself to any position you've held.

"If you have shown a pattern of short-term commitments, there is a good chance that they will favor a candidate who has stayed in one position longer," Simpson says.

If you have been bouncing around a bit, Simpson says, make sure you're prepared to answer questions you're likely to get in a job interview: "Why have you had so many jobs? What was your reason for leaving these jobs? Why shouldn't I expect that you are going to turn around and leave us after three months of working here?"

Kocmund imparts similar advice: "I tell candidates to have a balance between the different types of roles they've held, and to have a story that explains why they moved from one role to the next."

(Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has covered personal finance and other business-related topics for a variety of trade and consumer publications. You can email her your career questions at kfurore@yahoo.com.)

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