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Cultural Fit: Assessing if a New Company Is Right for You

By Susan Hoffman

Cultural fit is a sought-after quality by many employers. Every year, articles are published about how to evaluate the cultural fit of job candidates and what qualities are sought in those people.

When a potential employer brings you in for one or more on-site interviews, he or she already thinks that you have the skills necessary for the job. Your on-site interviews then become a way to dig deeper into your skills and gauge your cultural fit.

But as someone who’s hunting for a job, how do you know if the company culture will fit YOU?

What Is Cultural Fit?

Shannon Gausepohl, a writer for the New York publication Business News Daily, defines cultural fit as “employees’ beliefs and behaviors (that) are in alignment with their employer’s core values and company culture.” She also notes that “research shows that people who fit well into their companies express greater job satisfaction, perform better and are more likely to remain with the same organization for a longer period.”

Being happy at work is a goal for which you should strive. By being less stressed, you can become more creative and achieve a better work-life balance.

Determining Cultural Fit before the Interview

There are several ways to help you determine if you’ll fit in at your potential employer, but some research and networking are necessary.

First, go online. Read over the company website – is it written in formal, hard-to-understand business jargon or is it more user-friendly? What is the company mission? What has the company done for its customers?

Check the company’s social media sites. How does the company communicate on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter? If a customer reports a problem through a social media site, how long does it take for the company to respond?

Also, is that company informal in their communications with clients and customers? Does the company talk like a corporate zombie, providing canned responses without a personality or a person’s name?

Second, look at how long the interview process takes. Does it take several months for that potential employer to get back to you with answers to your calls or emails, or do you receive a response promptly? Does the company adhere to the timelines it provided to you or are deadlines ignored? How you’re treated as a job candidate is often a key indicator of how you’ll be treated as an employee.

Third, check websites that have employer reviews, such as Glassdoor, Great Place to Work and Indeed. Use these sites to find helpful information such as the company’s management, typical salary ranges and the work environment within the company.

Judging Cultural Fit during the Interview

There are also ways to gauge if you’re going to fit in once you’re physically present at the employer’s work site. For example, try the “reception area test” as you’re waiting for your interviewer to arrive and escort you to the interview location. Look around – is the receptionist treating you professionally? Are you waiting long past the prearranged interview time? Are people smiling and joking with each other, or does their body language indicate stress or exhaustion?

Be sure to ask each interviewer to describe the company culture. Does the interviewer shift uncomfortably in his or her chair and provide a shallow non-answer such as “Well, every Friday is Jeans Day!”? If your interviewer can’t clearly describe the internal culture of that organization, that should be a red flag to you.

Do Your Own Internal Self-Assessment before a Job Interview

In order to find a company culture that suits you, think about your previous jobs and the type of work environment where you thrive and feel most comfortable. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you like working for a big organization or do you prefer a small company?
  • Would you like a quiet, formal work environment or could you work in a noisy, casual open-plan office?
  • Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
  • Do you like collaborating in teams or do you prefer working solo?
  • What type of manager do you like?
  • Are you comfortable speaking up, especially when it’s in the best interest of the company or a company client?
  • If you see a problem, do you tell your manager about it and offer solutions?
  • Are you excited that the company offers ways to develop professionally?

Cultural Fit Has Lasting Effects for Both You and Your Employer

Although working for a company is the only guaranteed way to know its internal culture, you are more likely to experience contentment at a new job if both you and the company have a mutual cultural fit. With some extra effort to determine cultural fit during the interview process, you improve your chances of avoiding a toxic work environment. With the right company, you’ll look forward to going to work every day and have the satisfaction of accomplishing worthwhile goals.

Susan Hoffman is a Managing Editor at Edge, whose articles have appeared in multiple publications. Susan is known for her expertise in blogging, social media, SEO, and content analytics, and she is also a book reviewer for Military History magazine. She has a B.A. cum laude in English from James Madison University and an undergraduate certificate in electronic commerce from American Public University.

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