How to research company culture -- before you take the job

Asking for a raise: Women vs. men
Asking for a raise: Women vs. men

There's a lot you can't see during the job interview process.

Maybe you've visited the office. Maybe you've lunched with some potential new coworkers. But have you talked with colleagues about pay? Sat in on a meeting? Scoped out the C-suites?

InHerSight, a Glassdoor-like site for women to review different companies, gives female job-seekers options to explore these questions.

"There's so much talk about finding a supportive workplace as a woman," says the site's founder, Ursula Mead. "And it's really important that you've done your homework."

Especially for young women researching their first jobs, doing the homework becomes more important than ever. As high-profile companies like BBC and Uber roil with reports of pay disparity and harassment, women are looking for ways to learn more about how a company treats female employees -- before they ever set foot inside the office.

According to reviews on InHerSight, three key things are most likely to affect a woman's happiness at a company: salary satisfaction; a safe, respectful work environment; and responsiveness from upper management and human resources, especially when it comes to complaints about other colleagues or overall work culture.

But these are things that may never come up during a job interview process.

Below, some tips on how to get started.

Think about questions that matter to you -- and ask them early on

Prioritize the questions that matter most to your overall job satisfaction, and make a point of asking them during any facetime you have with your future supervisor.

A couple suggestions from Georgene Huang, co-founder of Fairygodboss, another site for women to discuss jobs and careers:

  • How many women hold leadership positions?
  • How many women were promoted in the last year?
  • How long do women stay at the company?

Huang shares this pro tip: If work-life balance is important to you, ask to visit at the end of the workday to see what the office feels like at 6 p.m. "If I walked out the door at 6, would I get the stink eye?" she says.

Check the numbers

Mead says the most important thing is differentiating a company's description of its employees' happiness from authentic experiences, as described by actual employees. Sites like InHerSight and FairyGodboss can help with that. They rank workplaces by salary, by the number of women in power, by women's reported satisfaction and more. A company like Etsy, for example, earned a 4.4 star score on InHerSight, rating highly for its professional opportunities and family leave options.

And anonymous reviews can lend some insight about the company culture, including stories of interactions with management, salary negotiations, leaves of absence and more. On Fairygodboss, one reviewer notes that at Etsy women "feel equal to men and valued."

But Huang cautions against weighing a single review or number too heavily. "There's a lot of salary info out there right now, so you have to triage," she says.

Talk to a real person

Early on in the interview process, ask the hiring manager to set up a chat with a colleague, and ask her the questions above to see how transparent a company is with its employees about benefits and more.

Mead also suggests searching through your LinkedIn connections and reaching out to someone yourself, independent of the hiring manager's recommendation. These connections could be alumna from your college, conference friends or even far-off acquaintances from your own network.

Professional groups on Facebook and Slack can also connect you to women with experience at your company, all of which can give you the intelligence you need most: stories, anecdotes and personal experiences about what it's like to work in the office every day.

"The ratings sites and review sites like ours and Glassdoor are great places to start the research because you can get a sense of the trends," Mead says. "But it's really helpful when you have people on the ground you can reach out to."

Social Surge - What's Trending

Mortgage

LendingTree

CNNMoney Sponsors