Successful job seekers take the time to tailor each resume and application to the job they are applying to, providing specific examples that show how their skills match the job description. But, while the right skills and experience are essential, being the right cultural fit, and proving your values match those that are important to the employer, can be equally important.
Finding a great company extends beyond just finding a position that matches your skills. For an interviewer, an interview gives them insight into the type of employee you will be. For the job seeker, this is an opportunity to access an employer’s culture and beliefs. So, how do you know if you are a fit with the company’s culture or not?
Why Fit Matters
Employers frequently see several candidates with similar qualifications and will choose the person whose values and culture match most with their company values, beliefs, and norms. In many cases, the person who gets the job is not necessarily the most skilled, but instead, the one who is the right fit for the company culture, or who most closely aligns with the company’s mission and values.
Why? Hiring someone to work at a company whose values do not align with theirs can leave workers feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied with their position, no matter the salary and benefits. And on the flip side, it can cause the company to have to rehire for the role quicker than they expected.
How to Figure Out If You Might Be a Culture Fit
Knowing how important company culture fit is, job seekers should also assess the company before applying. The potential work environment, company mission, and solution should align closely with your personality.
Learn About the Company’s Mission and Values
Much like an employer Googling a potential employee before doing an interview, a job seeker should check out their potential new employer before applying. You can tell a lot about a business by their social media interactions, the company website, and even the pictures on the company pages.
Look for press articles or releases about charitable work, community, team building, and work satisfaction. FlexJobs Career Coach Cidnye Work advises job seekers to, “see what kind of news and press are being covered for the company. How the media covers and portrays a company can tell you a lot about its culture and values.”
This information is not only helpful in writing a great cover letter, but it also allows you a peek into the world that you would be a part of.
Don’t Rely Solely on the Company’s Website
While the company’s website is a perfect place to start your research, don’t end it there. “Social media is a great way to see how companies and organizations are staying relevant and engaged with current social issues and societal trends,” says Work. “See how the company may be addressing issues that matter to you and ask yourself if it aligns with what you are seeking in a workplace environment.”
See What Employees Think
Sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and other social media are great ways to see what current and former employees think about the company. While there is almost always “that guy (or gal)” with nothing but negative things to say about their experience, if a majority of employees are saying positive things, that’s generally an indication that a company treats its employees well and has a good overall culture.
How Long Do Employees Stick Around?
Work also recommends that job seekers pay attention to employee turnover. “A red flag to look out for would be if there tends to be high employee turnover at the company. Are you frequently seeing the same job posted too often? Does it seem like employees tend to leave quickly? Do a little research and digging, but this could be a strong sign that there isn’t a great employee culture.”
How to Demonstrate That You’re the Right Culture Fit
Once you’ve done your homework and decided that the company is a good fit for you, you’ve got to convince the hiring manager that beyond your skills and experience, you are also a good cultural fit.
While you may not have exact experience with a company’s culture, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re not a cultural fit. Demonstrate how you’re active and engaged with things that are important to you.
For example, during your research, did you learn that a company encourages employees to volunteer and give back? If you have related experience, highlight these on your resume. For example, if you volunteered managing a nonprofit’s social media or sit on the board of a local organization, these can help you show you belong.
If you were on a team that spent a volunteer day working for Habitat for Humanity or were part of an employee group that volunteered for the Special Olympics, list that on your resume. If you were on your employer’s social committee or active with your employer’s cultural diversity employee resource group, add that to the resume or write about it in your cover letter.
Figuring Out If the Company Culture Fits You
Getting to the interview likely means the hiring manager thinks that not only do you have the right skills, you’re probably a good culture fit. However, that doesn’t mean you should assume you are a shoe-in. The interview is your chance to figure out if the company is the right cultural fit for you as well.
Cultural Fit Interview Questions to Ask Employers
Start by asking the right questions. Of course, you can always ask, “What’s your company culture?” but you may not get a useful answer. Consider some of these alternatives instead:
- How does the company support individual career growth and professional development?
- Do you encourage risk-taking? What happens if that risk fails?
- How do people give and receive feedback?
- What does success look like at this company, and how is it recognized?
- What’s the best thing about working here?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. But the answers can give you a sense of what the company is like on a day to day basis. Once you have a better idea of the company culture (are they a move fast and break things kind of place, or a slow and steady wins the race company?), you’ll have a better idea of whether or not you’re a company culture fit.
Ignore the Perks
Many employers offer unique and clever perks that can entice potential candidates into thinking they have found the perfect fit. While company-provided yoga sessions, free food, and unlimited vacation are all fantastic perks (and things you should consider when evaluating a job offer), you still want to look at how the company is structured, where leadership is, and where they see the company going.
Ask about the values surrounding schedules and productivity. If everyone you speak to seems rushed or short, people may feel overwhelmed or overworked, and this may be a clue of what an average day would look like for you. Perks or benefits will not overshadow a bad work environment or incompatible culture.
Dress to Impress
Even if you’re doing a Zoom interview, you should still dress to impress. Beyond the fact that it signals to the employer that you take your application and the role seriously, even if the camera is never on, dressing “up” for an interview can help you feel more confident and get in the zone.
That said, take a look at what your interviewer is wearing, and take a close look at what other employees are wearing (if you can). The dress code can be a great indicator of company culture. Is it a hot Friday in the middle of summer, and everyone is wearing suits and ties? Or is it a random Tuesday morning and everyone is wearing shorts and graphic t-shirts? Clearly, the suits and tie company has a different vibe and culture than the shorts and t-shirt crowd. Figure out which one makes you comfortable, and you’ll have a good idea of where you’ll fit in.
Does It Feel Like a Fit?
Sometimes the best way to figure out if you’re a fit is to trust your gut. “You can often tell if you are in a good fit during the interview process when the conversation is going so well time passes you by, and you feel like you are talking to someone you’ve known for a while,” explains Work. “Bonus points if there is an awkward moment or mistake during the interview, and you both can just laugh it off and move on.”
Ultimately, she says, “A true fit is somewhere where you can bring your 100% full and authentic self, and you don’t feel like you have to diminish any parts of who you are.”
Know Your Values
Knowing is half the battle. And when you’re comparing company cultures—along with perks, benefits, and salary—it’s easy to get overwhelmed. To help guide your decisions, understand what inspires and motivates you to be the best employee.
If you know what your values and boundaries are, you’ll have an easier time connecting with a great company that matches both your skill sets and your personal needs for pride and fulfillment in your career.
If the Shoe Fits
Personal fulfillment can be a motivating factor for people looking to switch careers or find a new job. A company that has a culture that fits your personality, values, and goals is a huge asset in your job search. Focusing your job search on those jobs that match you perfectly will ensure smoother interviews and more compatibility, which can lead to more job offers at great companies.
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