Company culture is hard to quantify, often goes unspoken, and lives on a wide spectrum. Although every company has a culture, they are not all healthy, so it is worth it to take the time to find an environment that works for you before you accept a job.
Tips and strategies for finding the right fit
We have utilized conversations with industry professionals in Why research counts: How to find a company culture that works for you as well as our own career expertise to bring you tips and advice for finding a company culture that suits you.
Before and while applying: Do your research
Make sure to investigate and verify current or former employee experiences through networking and review sites like Glassdoor.
See what’s out there. Check client-facing companies’ Google reviews. These could shed light on the health of a company, the happiness of its employees, and so much more.
Look them up. Explore the internet and see if the company has been in the news for any reason. Any information on the inner workings of the company could paint a picture of what it’s like to work there. Seek out information on:
- Hiring trends like layoffs and work requirements like in-person work
- Funding information. Do they have money for the benefits, pay, and perks they promise? Do they spend irresponsibly?
- Awards or reputations — for better or worse. Was it recently ranked the best place to work?
Potential benefits. Check the company website or LinkedIn profile to see if the essential benefit offerings are listed. If you know what you need in terms of health insurance, paid time off, and more, this is a great time to make sure that the company would be a fit. If appropriate, compare those benefits with your current situation to ensure it will work for you and your life.
Their mission statements. If you can find it, cross-check company mission statements with their actions. This is another case where any news, LinkedIn posts, or initiatives will be useful. During this stage, you can verify that organizations practice what they preach before getting wrapped into the hiring process.
At an interview: Observe, assess, and investigate
If your interview is in-person, this could be a great opportunity to assess company culture in action. Try to get a first-hand look at the work environment. Are employees happy? Does the environment seem collaborative?
During the interview, take advantage of any opportunity to ask questions. It’s a two-way street after all. Always use your best judgment and choose questions wisely. Here are some examples of things you could ask:
- How has your company handled any setbacks, such as layoffs or restructuring? How has the company or department supported employees during tough times?
- What features of your company set it apart from others? I.e., benefits, culture norms, etc.
- What are your company or department values and how are they lived out?
- What can I expect from the next stages of the recruitment process?
Pay close attention (or as close as you can) to your interviewers. The way they respond could give you a glimpse into the company culture. Make sure to observe things like:
- Openness to thoughts and opinions
- Clear communication and active listening
- Cohesion with other team members in the room — or lack thereof
Look out for red and green flags (Read more about this in our article, Why research counts: How to find a company culture that works for you).
Know that “the perfect company” may not exist. Sometimes it’s especially important to compromise and negotiate, but other times it’s better to acknowledge and stick to your standards. Observe your current situation and take stock of what is and isn’t working for you.
Understand that the career journey is not linear. If you have the means, embrace the reality that there is more to compensation than just salary. Ask yourself:
- Can I handle a pay decrease if my work-life balance improves?
- Would I be interested in changing to a new role within a company that is more aligned with my values?
- Would I be happier with a role in another department at my current company?
Remember that it’s a two-way street. Companies that consider how candidates add to their culture are probably more invested in employee happiness and vice-versa.
Think about the process holistically. Consider the overall interview process:
- How many interview rounds are there?
- Has your time been respected and valued?
- Did they stop communicating with you without an explanation?
In general, finding a job or career can be stressful — let alone finding one that works for you and your life.
Although we strongly encourage you to consider how a company’s culture aligns with your values and preferences before committing, we recognize that in certain situations, the need for income is highest on the priority list.
Wherever you find yourself in your career journey, remember to use self-reflection as a tool to drive your career decisions. Instead of taking the first opportunity that comes along or staying in a toxic environment, be proactive and find out what companies or industries would suit you, your needs, and your talents.