Is a Company’s Culture the Right Fit for You?
Sarah Brodsky / JANUARY 25 2021

When you search for a job, you probably have in mind some criteria like job title, location, and salary. Culture is harder to define and easy to overlook. But it’s important to take culture into account because the culture has a huge impact on the day-to-day experience of working for a company.

Here’s how to find out if you’d be at home in a company’s culture.

Write down your values

Jot down a list of what you’re looking for in an employer’s culture. Or create a bubble map, a word cloud, or a collage that illustrates the cultural qualities that matter the most to you.

Read the company’s promotional materials

As you might expect, a brochure from a company isn’t an unbiased assessment of its culture. But, it can give you a general idea of what the organization cares about. Take note of what the company puts forward as its main selling points, and consider whether those are things you value, too.

Read online reviews

Check employee review sites to see what current and former employees think of the company. Pay close attention to how reviewers describe its work environment and its leaders’ priorities. It’s normal to find some gripes among online reviews, but if a large number of reviewers point to the same problems, it’s a good idea to take them seriously.

Read media coverage of the company

Search for mentions of the company in the news, and take a look at both the positive and negative coverage. You may find stories that suggest the company has a healthy culture; for example, it might announce that it’s expanding benefits to more employees, or it might win recognition for a community service program. On the other hand, you could also find some potential warning signs, like citations for wage and hour violations or a judgment against it in a harassment case.

You don’t necessarily want to write off a company that has some bad press because organizations can grow and change. But if you come across any red flags, you’ll want to ask some tough questions about what steps the company has taken to turn its culture around.

Ask questions during the interview

During a job interview, you’ll likely have a chance to ask questions about the workplace. Try to ask at least a couple of questions about culture. See if the interviewer can give you examples of a few ways the company acts on its values. Ask the interviewer what kind of worker would succeed in the company’s culture and who wouldn’t fit in.

Pay attention to what the interviewer emphasizes

In addition to answering your questions directly, an interviewer may give you clues about culture through questions or offhand remarks. For example, if the interviewer is very focused on your experience teaching others, you might conclude that the workplace emphasizes training and support. If the interviewer mentions in passing that many employees burn out quickly, that may be a sign that the culture is stressful. 

Talk to your network

Ask your friends and current or former coworkers if they’ve ever worked for the company or if they can introduce you to someone who has. When you find a person who has first-hand experience with the employer, talk to them about what it’s like working there. Ask about the organization’s strengths, areas that need improvement, and whether they recommend it as a good place to work.

Ask for an informational interview

The hiring manager might be willing to pair you with a current employee for an informational interview. An interview set up by the employer may not be as candid as a chat with someone in your social network, but you can still ask questions and learn from the employee’s perspective.

Trust your gut instinct

After following the above steps, you should have plenty of information about the company’s culture from a few different viewpoints. That may be enough to make your decision. But if you’re still not sure, go with your gut. If something about the company makes you uncomfortable, even if you can’t say exactly why it’s probably best to move on and look for a position elsewhere. On the other hand, if the company seems like a friendly place and makes you feel welcome, that’s a good reason to pursue the opportunity.

Hcareers can also help you find your fit with the Fit Score survey. Create a profile and fill in the information to determine what companies and opportunities fit best for you.