Alhambra Credit Union

How to Determine If a Company’s Culture Is a Good Fit for You

Along with negotiating an adequate salary, ensuring the benefits meet your healthcare and retirement savings needs, and timing the commute from your home, you’ll also want to make sure the culture at a company is a good fit when interviewing for a job.

How do you check cultural fit? There are several actions you can take to suss out the character of a company’s culture. Throughout the process, you’ll want to keep in mind questions like:

  • How do I fit in here?
  • How do my skills complement what this organization is trying to achieve?
  • Will I easily grow here, or will I have to fight to be heard?

Throughout your investigation, keep a positive yet skeptical mindset—show continued interest in the position, but remember to take in some information with a grain of salt (i.e. is it coming from a disgruntled ex-employee, or an HR rep who’s sharing a rose-colored vision of the company?).

A quick note about culture vs. atmosphere will serve you well—they’re not the same thing! A company might have the latest communal office layout, casual dress code, in-house yoga studio, and award-winning on-staff barista, but those perks, or atmosphere elements, probably don’t correlate with management style or idea innovation. Unfortunately, toxic or poor-fit work cultures can still exist in the most Zen or hygge workspaces.

So, why is this extra layer of due diligence worth it when hunting for a new job can already be stressful? Because, it turns out, work culture has a big impact on lifestyle. It’s not just what makes you happy and engaged at work—it’s also what promotes happiness at home.

Interview your potential colleagues

During interviews and first visits to the company, talk to as many people as you can but especially with those who will form your team. Ask about what they’re working on at the moment, what they hope to achieve personally and as a team through projects, and what gets in the way of success, in their opinion.

Be on the lookout for engaged, motivated, and talented employees who have been with the company for more than a few years—that’s always a good sign.

Visit for a day, or a meeting, or two

If you can swing it, spending a few hours with your potential team for a meeting or brainstorming session can reveal a lot. You can observe how members interact with each other, how new ideas are respected, and if you fit in. You can also determine if it’s a collaborative culture or a more individualistic one and which is better for you.

Get to know your new boss…

…beyond the interview. Particularly at startups, small, and family-owned companies, not getting along with your direct boss can spell disaster from the get-go. Aim for a lengthy conversation with your prospective boss about their vision for your role, the team, and the organization as a whole. What would they like to see changed? What does success mean for them? If they aren’t prepared to answer these questions with you, it could be a red flag.

Contact outside sources

A visit to websites like Glassdoor and Salary.com is always a smart move to get a general feel for employee satisfaction. Go beyond these review sites by turning to your network (LinkedIn is a great place to start) to find those who know the company intimately: former employees, consultants, contractors, suppliers, even auditors or lawyers. Get their views on interactions with the company.

See if you can discover what types of people do well at the company and who doesn’t thrive.

Another move is to ask your interviewer for recent examples of employee career growth, organizational potential, and healthy work environment. It’s harder to fake examples than it is to make general, pleasant-sounding claims.

Identify when/where/how you do your best work

Whatever motivates, inspires, and keeps you on track should be present at your next job. When are you most productive? Are those conditions present at this job?