A Job Seeker’s Guide to Assessing Fit in a Company Culture

Since the primordial days of the human race, the concepts of fitting in and being part of a culture have been key to our survival. It’s no surprise, then, that this survival instinct has carried over to the professional world.

As organizations have matured, employees have come to be seen more as assets than expenditures. With this, the understanding of the role culture plays within a company’s walls has evolved. Today, more than ever, the concept of cultural fit has leapt from the confines of a human resources initiative and is now on the mind of those in the C-suite.

Why has the significance of culture increased so much in recent years? Well, there’s a lot of science running behind the bandwagon that has become corporate culture. Studies have shown a direct link between unified corporate cultures and the output of their employees… and those at the helm of successful organizations have embraced this research. Not only do successful organizations actively manage, shape and, when necessary, re-position their cultural identities—they also actively seek out talent that shares similar fundamentals.

So if companies are keen to the notion of their own cultures and seek to attract high potential talent that clicks within their walls, are there any indicators that individuals seeking employment can use to determine whether or not they will align with an organization’s culture? The answer is yes, most certainly, but all too often job seekers omit this part of their searches. As you identify organizations of interest, here are some methods you can use to determine whether you will flourish in an environment where your beliefs and values are shared by the masses, or if you’ll wither under the reality that you simply do not fit in.

Grab a Shovel

Nowadays, most organizations attempt to be transparent about their culture—you’re likely to find references right in their mission statement. These can be great, but if you simply rely on these polished, marketed excerpts, you’ll never discover the full story. This is where the shovel comes in handy… you’ll need to do some digging. Of course, you should use your network, but forget asking, “Tell me about your culture”—that rarely elicits the information you’re after.

Consider instead asking about how decisions are made, typical work-life balance, and even things as simple as dress codes. These are all factors that go into the equations of culture. Don’t stop there! Look to current clients, partners and even past employees. Their experiences working from a different vantage point may identify additional pieces of the puzzle that make up a company’s culture.

Look Up!

Culture isn’t created overnight, rather it permeates an organization slowly. Similar to the way that great rivers and canyons are created, the foundations for most corporate cultures can be gleaned by looking to those at the top. Does the CEO blog? If so, their writings may give you some insight into their beliefs and values. Oftentimes a simple interview published in the local paper will shine light onto how various leaders align themselves culturally. Sure, a CEO or president may not always mirror their company’s culture to a T, but the chance is strong that the company itself will be trying to align itself toward its leadership.

Take the Test

If you’ve been doing your homework and think you have a clear vision of a corporation’s culture, and you find yourself unsure as to whether or not your personality will mesh, consider taking one of the many cultural assessments available. Many employers rely on predictive tests to help determine if you’re a good match, so why not examine your own results in relation to what you know about the organization? A simple internet search will offer multiple opportunities to take personality and cultural assessments. Remember to take these results with a grain of salt—a discrepancy between your results and a corporation’s culture may not be reason to run. You’ll need to look at the big picture and determine if the tests indeed reflect your beliefs and values.

As you seek out your dream job, remember to keep your ideal culture top of mind. Regardless of the lures of money and endless perks, long-term success and happiness is something you won’t have if you don’t fit into your company’s culture. At the end of the day, we all want to do work that makes us happy and has a purpose. As the late Johnny Carson once said, “Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy. If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself. You’ll have inner peace.”

Michelle Kruse has helped countless job-seekers find success as the editor and content manager at ResumeEdge. With more than 10 years of experience recruiting for companies like Novartis and IBM, she has firsthand experience of what recruiters are looking for, and she shares that insight with those who need it most. She writes regularly to provide advice on resume writing and interviewing not only because it’s her job, but because it’s her passion.