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How to Evaluate If a Company’s Culture Fits You

The recruitment process as a two-way evaluation.

company culture

Fitting into the workplace culture is a critical aspect of employee experience. Being aligned with the company’s culture affects your satisfaction with the job, which then determines how long you will stay. Since you need to feel happy and successful to stick around, researching a company’s culture is a critical step in the job-hunting process.

Keep in mind that thriving company culture is not the same as offering cool workplace perks. While ping-pong tables and catered lunches may demonstrate the company’s commitment to achieving a certain overall culture, these benefits do not represent the traits a company values in its employees. You want to know if your personality, work habits, and values mesh with the company, your supervisors and your peers. 

If you want to ensure you are choosing a company that will set you up for success, there are a few steps you need to take before you make a decision:

Step 1: Understand What Type of Organization You Want to Be Part Of

Few of us are lucky enough to stumble onto a job that makes us happy. Since the right culture fit depends on each person’s priorities and goals, getting to know your own motivations, expectations and needs help narrow down the potential places that can nurture your sense of job satisfaction. During this self-evaluation, think about the environments you have been in that stimulated productivity, the situations that felt inspiring and the conditions that you want to avoid repeating. Compromising on these issues is a guarantee that you won’t want to stay in this position long-term.

Consider these questions to assess your goals as a jobseeker:

  • What type of people do I want to be around?
  • Do I want to be part of a startup or a big company?
  • How much flexibility do I need to achieve work-life balance?
  • What kind of team do I work best with?
  • What support do I need to feel successful in my job?

Step 2: Do Your Research

Once you are clear on what type of environment you are looking for, you’ll need to do some digging to determine which companies offer that. Companies that care about their reputation and believe in transparency, for example, will have websites that showcase their services, highlight their leaders and celebrate their values. Consult online reviews to learn about the company’s commitment to customer service. Professional sites, such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor, also provide valuable information about employee satisfaction, pay scales and turnover rates. Furthermore, cultural cues are embedded in the job ad, so scan the listing for keywords that emphasize personality traits and organizational philosophies.

During your research, evaluate the answers to these questions:

  • How are the company’s structure and teams organized?
  • Will the employee benefits enhance my life and stimulate my productivity?
  • Who are the team members that I will be working with?
  • Does the company provide mentorships or professional development opportunities to strengthen the team’s skills and talents?
  • Are the company’s core values aligned with my values?
  • Do I have any connections who can provide insight into what working for this company is really like?

Answering these questions will give you an idea about whether you should look for another company or if you should move forward in the application process:

Step 3: Interview Your Interviewer

Once you get to the interview part of the recruitment process, it is time to validate your assumptions. Besides being evaluated, you must see the interview as an opportunity to investigate how you will fit in with the company culture. Asking cultural fit questions during the interview also shows that you are invested in staying with the company for the long term. No one wants to feel interrogated, so your questions must be non-confrontational and have a positive spin. For example, instead of asking about a high rate of employee turnover, you might inquire about a key challenge the company is preparing to address in the next year.

Some of my favorite questions to ask during an interview are: 

  • What are the company’s cultural strengths?
  • What three traits are required to succeed in this company?
  • Does the company offer wellness programs to motivate employees?
  • Can you describe a time the company had to overcome an unexpected problem?
  • Has anyone on the team recently transferred to another position within the organization?

Asking these questions will help you understand if this is the place you want to be but in a subtle way. If you confirm your expectations, you will be one step closer to your dream job.

Step 4: Get to Know Your Potential Team

The final piece of the culture fit puzzle is getting to know the people who you will be working with directly, including your department supervisors and team members. Your relationship with these people shape a huge part of your job experience, so you need to get to understand them a bit before deciding to accept the position. This is also your chance to understand how your personality, work style and communication preferences fit with the rest of the team and whether your supervisor is committed to the company culture.

Here are some questions for you to either ask them directly or to read between the lines and look for the answer yourself:

  • What management style do you prefer to boost productivity and cultivate good relationships?
  • What does a typical day look like for your team?
  • How has your team solved a complicated issue or problem?
  • What personality traits will enhance or hurt the team?
  • What is a lesson or new skill that you have learned during the past year?

Come prepared with stories to demonstrate your alignment with the company’s needs and values, and trust your intuition based on the answers you receive. After all this research, you should know if a company is culture-driven and whether this place will allow you to thrive and be challenged.

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