6 tips to identify culture fit in your job search

After weeks of searching, you finally found the perfect job on one of the big job boards. But, just because the job description looks great doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. The odds are much greater that you can be happy and successful in an organization that most closely aligns with your values or is a good “culture fit.” So, how can you tell if the company you are interested in will be a good culture fit for you?

Here are six tips to help you.

1. Identify what you want to see in a company’s culture.

You can’t find the right fit until you know what you want. A good place to start would be to think about your values. Make a list, in order, of the things that are important to you. Values you may consider could include independence and autonomy, power, leadership, friendship, lifestyle, service, challenge, wealth and security. You will have some that are “must haves” and some that are “nice to have.”

2. Do your research.

Find out what is being said about the company in the local press, on the company website and other sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor. What do they say about themselves and their people? Do they mention their culture? What do you see in pictures of the company? How do the things you find align with what you want?  If service is important to you, are they involved in the community? Look for an article or picture of the company volunteering at a community event.

3. Talk to people.

Networking isn’t just about getting your résumé into the hands of hiring managers—it’s also about gathering information on the company. Is there a difference between what the company says about themselves and the reality? Is there a difference between the company culture and the culture of the department you are interested in? Culture can differ within organizations. You will want to find out if your hiring manager is the only micro-manager in the “best place to work” in the city.

4. Ask about your “must haves” during the interview.

If leadership is important, for example, you may ask how many of the current leaders were promoted through the organization. If a good work/life balance is important, you may ask if it’s OK to leave for a couple of hours to watch your child in the school play. But with some questions, timing is everything. You might delay that one until after you have received the job offer. Ask the same questions to different people, and compare their answers. Ask them to describe the company culture and give you an example. Asking questions will allow you to confirm the information that you have gathered.

5. Evaluate the hiring process.

This could take a few days, weeks or several months. Are you only told to go online and fill out an application? Or will a person actually speak with you? Is the initial interview by phone, or in the office, or is it a recorded video? Do you have to fill out a 10-page application including activities from years ago? Do they ask for the date you graduated from high school or your date of birth? Do they seem genuinely interested in you during the interview and after?

6. Observe your surroundings.

Once you’ve arrived at the company, look around. What pictures hang on the wall? Are there employee awards displayed? When employees come in, are they chatting with each other, smiling, happy to be there? Or, are they walking in, heads down, rushing toward their desks? Are they wearing suits or jeans and t-shirts? Is it an open or closed-door environment, shared desk space or “cube farm”? Continue to observe as you walk through the building.

Working through these six tips will allow you to gather great information on your specific “must haves” and “nice to haves” for culture fit. As you might imagine, there is no definitive right or wrong answer. It’s all about your “must haves.” Evaluating the culture fit of the organization, for you, is an important piece of criteria toward deciding whether a great job is truly the right career move for you.

Written by Nick Murphy for CW Magazine.