During the job-hunting process, culture fit is a topic that often goes overlooked by candidates. When the pressure of finding a job is weighing on your shoulders, you might feel tempted to blindly accept a position with the first company that sends you an offer, without considering if the work environment is a proper fit for you. But think again.
The job search is a two-way street. If you are solely focused on getting a job offer without considering whether you'll be happy in the work environment, you could be sabotaging yourself.
Studies have proven that dealing with a toxic workplace can lead to insomnia, disrupt your productivity and even increase your likeliness of developing depression.
If you think about it, the place you decide to work will essentially become your second home. You'll walk into the same office every morning and communicate with the same people on a daily basis. This is why hiring managers stress the importance of culture fit when interviewing job candidates.
But while it's important to prove to hiring managers you're a perfect fit for the job, you should also assess the company yourself to see if it aligns with your personal values and lifestyle.
Researching as much as you can and asking your hiring manager the right questions, can help you find work in an atmosphere that you'll enjoy being in and avoid the consequences of culture shock.
How do companies determine culture fit?
Successful companies require a team of employees that will collaborate and work well with each other. One poor hiring decision could potentially disrupt the entire existing work atmosphere if they don't align with the company's culture.
"We're more focused that you fit into the culture than just having the actual soft skills to do the job," according to Salesforce Hospitality and Events Specialist Kristin Emery, who does some hiring for the company. "You can teach someone how to do the job, but you can't really teach them how to fit in with the culture of Salesforce's team."
Every company's culture is different. It can be defined by the company's set of values, the work atmosphere and the shared attitudes of its employees.
With this in mind, screening candidates for culture fit is an important part of the interview process. To see if your skills and traits work with the company's culture, they might ask you questions about your work style, how you interact with others and even some personality-related questions.
Here are some common questions hiring managers ask to assess cultural fit:
- "Would you rather work alone or with a team?"
- "How do you handle stress and tight deadlines?"
- "Tell me about your most difficult project and how you got through it"
How to research a company's culture
It's a smart idea to research as much as you can about the company's culture before you accept any job offers. You don't want to end up quitting months later because you discover you hate your hours or realize the benefits aren't actually worth it.
Look up the company on job review websites like Glassdoor to learn more about the work environment from past and present employees. You should note any recurring issues or concerns that are brought up in the reviews since these are red flags to be cautious of.
Ask yourself these questions as you research the company's culture and prepare for your interview.
- What does the workspace design say about the company?
When you visit the office for your interview, scout out the place and try to get a feel for the vibe. Are the desks open, giving room for collaboration and socialization, or does everyone work independently in secluded cubicles? Are employees glued to their desks, or encouraged to roam around and sit on couches? Is there a ping pong table in the middle of the office?
While the office's layout shouldn't be a major dealbreaker, the small details can say a lot about the company's culture. Modern, bright workplaces with sit-stand desks, movable walls and relaxation lounges can show the company is current and flexible. Even minimal office features like natural lighting and an abundance of plants can convey that the company cares about maintaining its employees' wellbeing.
Working in a well-designed, open office can also improve productivity levels and stimulate creativity. At Salesforce, even their seating arrangements represent their company's fun, social work culture.
"Most of our teams don't have assigned seating," Emery explained. "Everyone has a locker where they can put their stuff in and each morning, you can pick a different seat to sit. It really inspires more conversations between teams."
Their collaborative, social offices have landed them a spot on Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For list, for 11 years in a row.
"There's a social space on every floor, with kitchens and couches, so it feels like you're in a living room," Emery said. "[It] lets you take a step away from your work and your stress. You can sit on the couch and just watch TV or have a conversation with your co-worker."
- Does the company encourage employees' work-life balance?
As busy humans, we know there's more to life than just work. So, finding the perfect work-life balance is essential. When searching for a company with the perfect culture fit, it's a good idea to research how the company takes care of its employees, outside of just the workplace.
"If you have a balance in your home and work life, you'll be more productive in both areas. If you have employees that are coming in stressed out, they're probably going to get less done," Emery explained.
To ensure work-life balance, Salesforce offers a "Wellbeing Benefit" for its full-time employees. It's a $100 monthly allowance to enjoy "nourishing" activities outside of the office, such as fitness classes or massages to combat stress.
Many other companies also offer enticing perks to support their employees' wellbeing and personal lives. For example, Airbnb gives its employees a $2,000 yearly stipend to travel and stay at any Airbnb listing in the world.
As you read through job reviews, figure out if the company you're interested in encourages a healthy work-life balance. Check if the hours are flexible and manageable. Find out what their policy is for working from home. Do they expect employees to work on holidays? What about paid time off? Knowing these details can help you decide if the job correlates with your lifestyle or if it will potentially create problems.
- What steps do they take to cultivate a happy work atmosphere?
Happiness in the workplace is important. It leads to a better quality of work and increases employees' engagement. Every Monday, for example, Salesforce has a DJ set up in the lobby, to hype employees as they come into work.
"Employees [are] more productive if they're proud and happy with where they work," Emery said.
Hosting community events and socials in the office also help reduce burnout and encourage employee retainment. But a DJ or the opportunity for a massage aren't important to everyone, so it's critical to think about what amenities would make a difference in your life.
During your interview, a good way to measure happiness in the workplace and the real value of the perks a company offers is to ask the hiring manager what they love about the job.
Questions to ask the hiring manager
Now that you've discovered the specific qualities you're looking for in a company's culture, it's time to start asking the right questions.
Here's a list of questions you can ask the hiring manager to assess whether the company will be a good fit for you:
- "How would you describe the work environment?"
- "Can you describe a typical day in this office?
- "What's your favorite part about working here?"
- "What are some of the ways this company celebrates success?"
Still searching for a job that's the perfect fit? Start by writing a better resume. LiveCareer's Resume Builder can help you with that by walking you step-by-step through the process of creating a terrific resume.