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How to Determine If a Company’s Culture is Right for You

September 29, 2023
ASK Consulting

You’ve finally struck gold after months of job searching. A company has extended you an interview opportunity.

While an employer is doing their due diligence in determining if you’re the right candidate for the role, it's also time for you to decide if a company’s culture is right for you.

Evaluating the culture at a company isn’t always plain as day. Here are some questions to consider during your interview to help you figure out if a future prospective employer is a good fit.

  1. What is important to me at work?

You can’t decide if something is right for you without first knowing what you want. The same applies to potential employers. When deciding if a company’s culture is a good fit for your needs, it’s important to define your priorities—the things most important to you.

Every individual has unique needs and desires. What matters most to you might be a non-factor for someone else. For instance, a single parent might need flexible work hours to accommodate family needs. If you’re ambitious about climbing the corporate ladder, a work progression program might be paramount.

To discover what your wants and needs are, start by listing the things that make you happy or motivated to work. Then, identify your non-negotiables. From there, you can decide what priorities are flexible and those that are least important to you.

  1. What is leadership like?

Management at a company can make or break your employee experience. That’s why it’s essential that you do your research about the leadership at a company before you commit to a role. As a job seeker, you can evaluate management at two levels: executive and senior leadership.

When examining executive leadership, candidates should hone in on whether they can align with the organization's vision. Is their mission or vision something you can see yourself contributing to? Does the vision match your personal values?

Likewise, job seekers can gauge leadership at the senior level by observing their potential boss—the person they will directly report to. Your relationship with your boss is very important. More often than not, a bad first impression is a tale-tale sign of a not-so-pleasant employee experience.

When interviewing for a company, get a good idea of whether you’ll mesh well with your potential manager. Consider whether your personality will thrive or struggle under said leadership. You can also inquire during the interview about their management style and ask about what success looks like to them.

Having all these answers will give you a close guess of what you can expect on the job when it comes to senior and executive leadership.

  1. Does this company’s values match mine?

At the end of the day, we like to be present among like-minded people. Companies are no exception to this fact.

Our values help define our character, lifestyle, approach, and how we operate each and every day. These abstract ideals ultimately drive our actions at work and at home, giving a shared sense of unity and alignment among coworkers and peers.

To determine if a company’s values match yours, it’s critical to know what your personal values are to start. From there, you can browse a company website or social media pages to gather an idea about what ideals are most important to them. Sometimes, values are explicitly mentioned and other times, they are inferred.

If you want first-hand insight into a company’s values, feel free to inquire about them during the interview. Your interviewer will more than likely give you an insider perspective about the company ideals they can personally attest to.

  1. How is success measured?

Success on the job depends on the eye of the beholder, including management. When deciding if a company’s culture is right for you, it’s paramount that you understand what success looks like within an organization.

Some companies may focus on big-picture things like overall impact while other businesses may focus on tiny details like metrics. It’s very critical that you are okay with a company’s measurement of success because it will determine the way in which you will work.

Are you comfortable with daily, weekly or monthly KPIs? Do you want to be paid based on individual performance rather than team performance?

Pay attention to how work output is evaluated so you can ensure a company’s culture is where you want to work.

  1. What is work-life balance like?

Since the pandemic, work-life balance has been a hot topic. Remote work is on the rise, leaving job seekers to juggle home and work simultaneously.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to evaluate whether a position or company is a good fit for your personal life. A role can have all the perks, bells and whistles. But, if it’s in conflict with the personal lifestyle you desire, you might be headed down a miserable path.

Work is a part of life and with that, there must be balance. Are you okay with working late hours or weekends? Do you want to find time for the gym alongside work? Can you be on-call after work hours?

We often think of work separately from life, but the reality is that they do impact each other. It’s important to get an inkling of what work-life balance is like at an employer to ensure that you’ll be happy at work and home.

To get a good idea of a business’s work-life balance approach, ask people who work there. You can also visit peer review sites like Glassdoor and Google for honest commentary.

The Takeaway

Gauging workplace culture is no easy feat. It takes careful research and observation to make a well-informed decision. Here are some helpful tips to consider when determining if a company’s culture is right for you:

Know yourself. Understanding who you are and what your needs are the first steps to evaluating an employer. Dig deep by asking yourself the questions that really matter to you in the long run.

Be open-minded. When evaluating an employer, don’t let personal biases or preconceived ideas cloud your judgment. Instead, let your primary and secondary research provide the facts you need.

Go with your gut. Our instincts are helpful tools in decision-making. Don’t forget to leverage them. If a company makes you feel good, you’re probably on the path to something positive. Likewise, if some feels fishy, it probably is. Only commit to a workplace culture that excites you and checks off your unique needs.

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