This page serves as a tool-book for tech laborers to help them more effectively evaluate a tech company’s culture prior to applying or accepting an offer. This kit consists of a “cheat sheet” of the potential indicators of company workplace ethics which I explored in my research, a list of questions to ask current or former employees, and digital groups and resources.
The Rundown on Potential Indicators of Workplace Ethics:
The following 6 aspects of a company’s organizational structure may be useful in signaling information about the respective workplace culture. The caveat to this list is that all of these indicators may provide useful information if they are institutionalized at the company and acted upon by leadership, and not established merely for optics, reputation, industry quotas, or legal requirements. Some ways to evaluate whether or not these are effectively ingrained in the company culture is by asking relevant questions to HR, Recruiting, or other employees.
- Mission/Vision – Mission and values statements can offer insight into a company’s’ guiding principles, but are meaningless if they are not ingrained into company behavior.
- Code of Ethics – A code of ethics, essentially a more value-based code of conduct, can positively guide company behavior and employee actions. However, leadership must enforce this code by example and how they reward employees..
- Slogans/Taglines – Although typically aimed to trigger a company’s image and brand in the consumer’s eye, these can also reflect a company’s mission and values. Example: AirBnB “Belong anywhere.”
- Demographics – Companies that are more diverse can reflect both inclusive hiring practices as well as more ethical decision-making. However, some companies may only care about their public image or hitting quotas.
- Policies/Practices – Companies that offer parental leave, enforce zero-tolerance harassment policies, and do not require forced arbitration are more likely to have positive, healthy workplace cultures.
- New Positions – New executive positions such as Chief Diversity Officer and Chief Ethics Officer are emerging in industry and academia. These can reflect companies’ commitment to ethics and diversity, unless they are only motivated by their public image.
Questions to ask:
In the interview process (to recruiters and other interviewers):
- What is the vision of the company? What is the primary mission and has it changed at all over the course of the company’s lifetime?
- What are the company’s values? How are these values promoted and reflected in company culture/behavior on a daily basis?
- How are employees evaluated and reviewed for promotions/rewards? Is this information available to employees?
- How does the leadership typically communicate major updates or important information to the company?
- What are the company’s primary diversity and hiring policies? Is there a pipeline in place for growing diversity at the company?
To current or former* employees:
- What is the dynamic on your team like?
- Do you feel like your manager supports you?
- What are your typical hours? Are they similar to what you expected when joining?
- Has anything surprised you about the culture?
- Do you feel that company leadership is transparent about their decisions, policies, etc.?
*Former employees are recommended – they will likely be more honest with you.
Linkedin is a great tool to find current and former employees at specific companies. For Bowdoin Colleges students, the BCAN (Bowdoin Career Advisory Network) group on Linkedin is a phenomenal resource. The group consists of hundreds of alumni who have demonstrated interest in speaking with current or graduated Bowdoin students.
Tech groups and digital resources:
The following is a list of coalitions, digital groups, social media accounts, and online resources that may provide useful information about specific companies’ cultures or how to better evaluate/work at them.
- Tech Workers Coalition
- Women in Technology
- Lesbians Who Tech
- Twitter: @lesbiantech
- Twitter accounts such as
- @MSworkers4 – Microsoft Workers for Good
- @GoogleWalkout – Organizers of Google Walkout for Real Change
- Dear Tech People
- Evaluates and ranks tech companies based on diversity
- Better Brave