How To Tell If a Company’s Culture Is Right for You

How To Tell If a Company’s Culture Is Right for You

Your fortunes are intertwined. You hope you share the same values. And you’re going to be spending one out of every four hours of your life together. It may not be an actual marriage, but saying I do to an employment relationship is as big a deal as selecting a mate for life. How can you know whether you’ll click with a company’s culture? And why does it matter?

Why Company Culture is Important

Supportive company culture has been identified as a driver of employee engagement, just one predictor of the level of success of a working relationship. Engaged employees are those who have a personal stake in their work, and this ideal state has a trickle-down effect for both sides of the partnership. Engaged workers enjoy greater job satisfaction, while their employers benefit from their increased productivity.

It’s a positive spiral that pays off for workers who want long-term employment and for HR departments that want to retain their best talent. Disengaged workers are less likely to have staying power, meaning more frequent disruption for those who have to change jobs and a loss of investment for the folks who hired and trained them.

According to Gallup, businesses that ace engagement see 20% greater profits on average, while their contented employees experience, among other things, better health.

How to Find a Company Culture That’s Right for You

So, your goal as a job candidate should be to find a position at a company with which you can engage. Is there a formula for this type of matchmaking? With a little self-assessment and sleuthing—plus a more active interview technique—you can hit on the right cultural recipe for you.

Know Thyself

You’ll both contribute to and draw on a company’s culture, so knowing who you are, what you want, and what you have to offer should come first. Start by taking a personality test, such as Meyers Briggs, the DISC assessment, or a free online quiz to help you understand your natural tendencies. These can help predict a good job fit. Since these tests are becoming standard pre-employment practice, taking and learning from them yourself puts you a step ahead.


Some advance work in seeing what others have to say about a prospective employer can give you a more objective assessment than you’ll hear from recruiters. Hit the search engines and rating sites like Glassdoor and Yelp.

Take special note of the pluses and minuses you find in the mid-range reviews. These will give you the best median perspective on how employers treat both their workers and their clients or customers—clues to the company’s commitment to ethical, respectful relationships.

Own the Interview

Consider job interviews as your chance to learn about a company, rather than the other way around. Businesses already have tools like your resume and LinkedIn page, personality tests, and background checks in addition to in-person meetings. Take advantage of the platform that interviews provide to get a real window into a company’s culture. Ask probing questions such as how their teams handle problems and what the company does to build trust among coworkers.


A company’s readiness to share information indicates a business that strives to be fair to all employees. Ask outright for evidence of transparency during your talks with both management and their direct reports. If they shy away, that’s a troubling sign.

If they offer to walk you through the company’s goals, financial health, and organizational structure, you’re on the right track to making an informed decision about the prevailing culture.

Shadow On and Off the Clock

Observing culture is one thing, but participating in it will let you test-drive a potential employment relationship. Say yes to pairing with a prospective team member to see what their day looks like. Say you bet to getting together with employees after hours to talk over dinner or get to know the local area. You’ll have time to ask any questions you missed. And you’ll see how employees really feel about their working relationships, by what they say and don’t say.

Finally, get a handle on what good company culture is and isn’t. Free snacks and cushy furniture are nice, but they won’t ensure a dynamic working relationship. If you know some of the telltale signs of great culture, you can be on the lookout for them during your visit and interviews. Treat your job search more like the test for a good marriage than a one-night stand. Joining a culture that reflects your values, energy, and outlook promises better job satisfaction—and many anniversaries.

Chris Dyer is a recognized performance expert, speaker, and consultant. He has channeled what he has learned in his business research and as Founder and CEO of PeopleG2, a leading background check company, into his best-selling book, The Power of Company Culture (Kogan Page, 2018).

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  • December 5, 2021