On paper, the job seemed perfect. The position was completely in line with my background, the responsibilities were right up my alley, and the office had a well-stocked kitchen that would satisfy my every snack craving. Sounds like a dream job, right? There was only one small problem: I simply didn’t mesh with the company culture. They favored a more rigid, closed-door, corporate atmosphere, when I preferred something more collaborative and open. To put it plainly, we just weren’t on the same page.
When it comes to looking for a new job, you already know that a big part of the interview process involves the company evaluating whether or not you’re a good fit for their role. But, it’s important to keep in mind that the employer isn’t the only one who needs to find a good match—you should be looking for that same exact thing.
However, figuring out what a company is like before you actually work there can be a bit of a challenge. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to determine whether or not a company is a good fit for you—before you sign your name on that dotted line.
Know what you want… or don’t
It’s hard to make any decisions when you don’t really know what you’re looking for. So before you can decide whether you and a specific company would gel, it’s important to have a handle on what exactly you want from your employer.
Many of us have an easier time identifying the things that we absolutely don’t want. If those are the only things you can think of, don’t worry! That’s still a good place to start.
Start by writing down the things you didn’t like about previous employers, as well as the parts you really valued. There’s no wrong answer here—from big things to small details, write it all down on your list. This will help you better identify what you’re looking for, as well as the things you’re trying to stay far, far away from.
Do your research!
Now comes the part when you put on your detective hat and do a little digging. The internet is your best friend when you’re trying to research a company’s culture before walking through their office doors. Where exactly should you look for these culture clues? Start with the most obvious place first: the company’s website. Read through their copy and blog. Do they use formal, direct language? Or is it casual, conversational, and maybe even a little humorous? This can be a big indicator of what sort of atmosphere a workplace is trying to cultivate.
Next, turn your attention toward their social media outlets. Are they sharing photos of their team’s Thursday afternoon grilling session or Halloween costume contest on Instagram? Or are their social media accounts strictly reserved for company related announcements and product launches?
Finally, you can never fail with personal connections. Send a quick message to a current or previous company employee on Twitter or LinkedIn and ask if he or she would be willing to have a quick conversation with you about the opportunity. If you get a yes to your request for a chat, you’ll be armed with some pretty powerful and helpful information heading into your interview!
We all know that part at the end of a job interview when the hiring manager asks if you have any questions, and you stare across the table blankly with your mouth open. You just missed the perfect opportunity to speak up and get your burning company culture questions answered! Simple questions like, “What three words would you use to describe the culture here?” or “What’s your favorite part about working for this company?” can reveal a lot about what it’s really like behind closed doors.
Prioritize your values
What does MY dream company culture look like? Well, I could come and go as I please, as long as I was getting the work done. My boss would genuinely listen to and value all of my ideas and suggestions. My co-workers would all be friendly with one another, without ever falling into the office gossip trap. The kitchen would have an endless rotation of gluten-free pizza and tacos, and the conference room would double as a doggy daycare. Oh, and they’d give me two months of paid vacation with an obscenely generous salary.
What are my chances of finding all of those things with one employer? Slim to none—believe me, I’ve looked. This is why it’s so important to know which aspects of a company’s culture you value most. Zone in on the top spots on your priority list, and ensure a potential employer at least checks those boxes. Unfortunately, you can’t have everything you want but a few are certainly doable.
When you’re hunting for a new job, you already know that the employer is trying to decide whether or not you’re a good fit for the position. But you should also look at the process through a similar lens. You may not be the one conducting the actual interview, but you’re still trying to determine whether or not company is a good fit for you.
Keep these tips in mind to figure out whether you and a potential employer are a perfect match or just a recipe for disaster. After all, it's a good thing to know beforehand that company culture can have a big impact on how you feel about your work, so you want to make sure you sign an offer letter with a company you’re truly excited about.