9 Tips To Help Decide If A Company’s Culture Is Right For You

By Maddie Lloyd - Mar. 24, 2021

Find a Job You Really Want In

When you’re applying and interviewing for jobs, you’re mostly going to be focused on answering the most common interview questions, researching the company’s background, and looking into the specific job duties and requirements.

While you’re all caught up in the whirlwind of job hunting and interviewing, you could be totally overlooking a huge factor that could determine whether or not you’re a good fit for the job: the company culture.

Here’s the deal:

Sometimes we just need a job — any job. But if we overlook the company’s work environment and what it’s like to be there on a daily basis, we risk the chance of getting stuck with the ultimate nightmare: a job we really, really hate. Let’s not let that happen.

Here’s everything you need to do to make sure that a company’s culture is the right fit for you:

1Do Your Homework Before the Interview

To get a peek inside of what a company’s culture might be like, check out their social media profiles before your actual interview. Check out the company’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media profiles to see how they present themselves online.

Pay special attention to how the company interacts with the public and what its mission statement is. Then, look up some people you’ll be working with on LinkedIn to get a sense of their personalities and priorities.

You can tell a lot based on how people dress in company photos, what sort of events they publicize and draw attention to, and the stated values of the company. Consider how all of these things align with your values and preferred work style and environment.

You should also check out company reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed to see what people are saying about them. However, you should keep in mind that a disgruntled employee will have a skewed opinion of the company for obvious reasons, so try to keep it objective.

2Look Up Any Recent News or Events

Do some research to see if anything noteworthy has been happening with the company lately. Look out for any layoffs, acquisitions, or any fuzzy “we’re restructuring/rebranding” press releases.

Always keep an eye out for anything sketchy or otherwise out of the ordinary. Have any company leaders made news lately, and what for? Change, be it good or bad, can always rattle up a company’s culture. It’s better to go in with clear expectations than to be caught off-guard.

This research will help you determine if the company is one where you’d like to work. On top of that, it will provide some great content for when you have to answer “what do you know about our company?” at the interview.

3Talk to Current or Former Employees

If you have any connections to the company you’re interviewing with — a friend, a former colleague, a friend of a friend, a relative, etc. — take advantage of that connection and pick their brain about the company culture.

Ask them questions like:

  • Would you recommend working there? Why?

  • What kind of person is most likely to succeed?

  • What are the best and worst things about working there?

Asking these questions will help you get a deeper insight into what it’s like to work for the company on a daily basis more so than asking “Did you like it there?”

4Pay Attention to Keywords in the Job Listing

There are some pretty common buzzwords people use in job listings that can be pretty telling about the work environment and company culture.

Be on the lookout for the following keywords when you’re trying to decide if a company will be right for you:

  • Fast-paced. There’s probably a lot happening at all times at this company. You’ll be going from one project to the next without a lot of time for reflection. This is a good environment for people who get bored easily or are task-driven.

  • Relaxed. This environment is better for perfectionists or those who prefer not to multitask. If you want to have enough time to reflect on your work in between deadlines, this environment is perfect for you.

  • Egalitarian. If you’re a big-picture thinker and you want to be able to contribute ideas, this is the perfect company culture for you. Everyone is given more opportunities based on ideas rather than seniority.

  • Hierarchical. This environment is best for those who prefer a top-down structure with one boss who gives assignments, and for those who don’t like to work with people who have less experience.

  • Social. This is a great company culture for people who want to make friends at work or enjoy socializing with colleagues throughout the day.

  • Autonomous. If you prefer to be 100% focused on work while you’re at the office, or if you just hate socializing with coworkers, look for a job description that is more focused on working individually or autonomously.

  • Rapidly-growing. With this kind of company, you’ll quickly evolve your position and boost your resume. Other words to look for are “startup,” “changing,” or “inaugural.” You’ll have to be at least somewhat ok with a little uncertainty.

  • Stable or established. These kinds of companies come with a sense of comfort and security. You’ll be following a system a predecessor put in place, and your responsibilities will be exactly as they were outlined in the job listing.

5Observe Employees Before Your Interview

There are so many reasons why you should get to your job interview early: it’s good interview etiquette, it will help you make a good first impression, and you’ll have time to reflect on your prepared answers to the most common interview questions.

Yet another good reason to show up early is that you’ll get the chance to scope out the office and see how everyone interacts with each other. Make sure to take mental note of how everyone engages with one another and the general atmosphere of the office.

Pay attention to things such as:

  • Do the employees greet each other?

  • Is the receptionist nice?

  • If people working are on their own, or as a team

  • Are people around the office helpful to point you in the right direction?

  • If everyone is dressed in casual or formal attire?

Asking yourself these sort of questions while you’re observing the office can help you decide if you’ll fit in and if the company has a work environment that would help you be productive, or if it would be completely awful and depressing.

6Ask Questions About the Work Environment

During the actual interview, when you’re asked “Do you have any questions for me?” use this opportunity to get more insight into the company’s day-to-day work environment.

People typically want to work for companies that recognize their employees’ achievements, celebrate their successes, and care about their community as a whole. Some people require flexible work schedules, and some people just want to feel like they’re valued.

Here are some questions you can ask to determine the company’s work environment:

  • ”How does your company celebrate success or recognize achievements?”

  • ”How do you, or your manager, supportand motivate your employees?”

  • ”What sort of flexible or remote work arrangements does your company offer?” Pro-tip: save this one for the second interview, otherwise they’ll just think you’re lazy and don’t want to come into the office.

7Figure Out How the Company Supports Its Employees

When you’re trying to determine whether or not a company’s culture is right for you, you should look into their growth opportunities and how they support their employees when projects don’t exactly get their expected outcomes.

To learn more about how a company engages their employees and provides opportunities for growth, ask questions like:

  • ”Are taking risks encouraged, and what happens when someone fails?”

  • ”What makes you proud to work with this company?”

  • ”How does this company support career growth and professional development?”

  • ”How does your company conduct performance reviews?”

8Ask How the Company Handles Conflict

Conflict within a company is bound to happen at some point or another. It’s not necessarily a bad thing — healthy conflict can be productive and resolve multiple problems.

Successful teams will have a productive approach to dealing with conflict and resolving disagreements. Plus, if a company just tries to completely avoid conflict, it can lead to resentment and employees just totally hating one another.

Ask these questions to ensure that this company deals with its issues, rather than sweeping them under the rug:

  • ”How are decisions made within the company, particularly when employees have conflicting viewpoints?”

  • “What methods of communication does your team use?”

  • ”When and how do people give and receive feedback?”

  • ”In this company, what is the main source of conflict, and how is it resolved?”

9Assess the Interview Process

Job interviews aren’t held just so employers can make hiring decisions; they’re also for candidates to make career decisions. Pay attention to how well organized your interview is — you can pick up on the culture by noticing little things. Did the interviewer meet with you right on time, or did everyone seem disorganized throughout the process?

Also, pay attention to the tone of the people you meet during the interview stage. Ask yourself if they truly seem enthusiastic about their role, your potential position, and the broader goals of the company as a whole.

Consider whether you feel that the interview process has indicated that you’ll receive the support you need and clear guidelines for how to do your job.

In a lot of cases, the hiring manager or recruiter you talk to at your interview won’t be someone you’d be working with. Keep this in mind as you analyze the interview.

If they’re not going to be involved in your day-to-day life and don’t have much interaction with the team you’d be working with, then it might be unfair to judge the company’s culture, or the culture of your team, based on the interviewer.

Final Thoughts

In job listings and during interviews, every company will boast about how they’re the best company to work for, so it’s up to you to do some digging and determine how exactly their company culture would work for you.

Do some research, ask around, and ask the interviewer questions about aspects of the company culture that matter the most to you.

It’s better to do your research beforehand than to end up at a job that you totally and completely hate. So do yourself a favor and learn as much as you can about their company culture and work environment before you land that job offer.

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Maddie Lloyd

Author

Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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