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Finding a Good Culture Fit

good culture fit

You know that a good culture fit at work is critical, and the research proves it: According to SHRM, employees who rate their organization’s culture as “good” or “excellent” versus “poor” or “terrible” are 790% more likely to feel satisfied at work and are 83% less likely to be actively looking for a new job.

So, we know a good culture fit is important. But how do you identify it? Attract it? And not settle for something less?

First, you need to decide what you consider a good workplace culture because the definition is different for everyone. To get started, we turn back to SHRM, which has put together a Global Workplace Culture Model. SHRM researchers presented workers with 50 employer practices and asked them to rate the practices against what they consider to be positive workplace culture perceptions. The resulting model is meant to help employers improve their cultures, but we think it’s an excellent visual for job seekers looking to find a good culture fit, too.

Categories or statements you resonate most with will be the areas you’ll want to highlight during your job search.

SHRM’s Global Workplace Culture Model as published in 2023

You can also pinpoint your preferred work culture by answering sample culture-fit questions and jotting down the keywords/attributes that come to mind. For instance, this sample of 49 interview questions from HR Morning includes, “What advice would you give to someone early in their career?” If your thoughts turn to things like making strong connections, strengthening hard skills, valuing the opinions of others, taking your earned vacation time, or looking for mentors, then your values become clear. The more you repeat those same themes with your answers, the clearer your culture fit will be.

Then, consider the following steps:

Research the company’s culture. Thoroughly researching the company’s mission, values, and work environment. Look for information on their website, social media platforms, and any available company blogs or videos. This initial research can give you a sense of the company’s priorities and atmosphere. And remember that a “good” culture is subjective. An organization that values innovation above all and a tireless drive to be excellent sounds exciting, and it can be a great culture fit for some, but it’s not always a great environment for someone who values work-life balance, for example.  

Look at online reviews. Websites like Glassdoor and Indeed allow current and former employees to share their experiences. These reviews can provide insights into the company culture, management style, and employee satisfaction. However, take them in stride, as they can sometimes represent extreme viewpoints. You can connect with a few people at the company for their take (approaching 1st or 2nd “friend of friend” connections on LinkedIn is a great way to do this).

Ask direct questions about culture during the interview process. You can ask questions about culture fit? Absolutely! Please do! You can choose ones that align with the culture model areas above, ask about statements or reviews you uncovered in your research, and even choose from the list of recruiter-suggested questions we’ve posted previously.

Observe. If you have the opportunity to visit in person during the interview process, pay attention to the environment, work conditions, employee interactions, and even signs of awards or innovation. Notice how the interviewers communicate, interact, and follow up. Are you given a chance to meet with peers? Employers that value culture fit will find ways to highlight it during your interview. It can be a red flag if you’re kept at arms-length, never see the office, or can’t interact directly with potential teammates.

Stay focused. No workplace is perfect, but don’t try to convince yourself that every one of your culture-fit priorities is negotiable, either. If you do, you’ll be miserable. If career development is important, ask about continuous learning and growth opportunities. If diversity is important to you, observe the culture from that viewpoint and determine how important inclusivity is to them. Remember that some cultures and mission statements sound impressive, but compare them to your wish list. For you, they could completely miss the mark.

Don’t forget the basics. Workers responding to a recent Payscale poll said they primarily chose a job for culture fit (meaningful work and increased pay being the top reasons), but 25% left for higher pay elsewhere. It’s ok to admit to yourself and others: Compensation matters. Benefits matter. HR payroll software provider Ciphr found that the key elements that made a positive workplace were good colleagues and friendly people (40%), followed by competitive pay (35%). So be honest with yourself. Yes, a good culture fit is more than money, but be sure you can live with (and on) the paycheck and benefits you’ll be getting.

Remember, finding a good culture fit is not just about adapting to a company but also about finding a place where you can be your best self, contribute effectively, and be happy.

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