Increasingly in job applications, one thing stands out that can make or break an interview – culture fit. Many people immediately think of culture fit as being up for socialising and having after-work drinks with colleagues. However, it is much more important and complex than this. Culture fit is hard to define and varies a lot from company to company.

At its core, cultural fit means that employees’ beliefs and behaviors are in alignment with their employer’s core values and company culture. 

Finding what kind of culture a company has and whether you fit this can be a daunting task in an already challenging process. It is just as important for you to be right for a company as it is for a company to be right for you. We have put together this guide to help you decide if you’re right for a company culture and if it’s right for you.

company culture, teamwork, skills, office, colleagues, ignite, digital talent

How to find out what a company’s culture is like?

Use social media to research the company in depth.

Check out all of their social media posts (not just LinkedIn). Quite often companies make a YouTube channel or an Instagram that shows what it’s like ‘behind the scenes’. This will give you a better idea of the kind of people that work there and the values they find important.

Ignite Digital Instagram, company culture, ignite life

This is our Ignite Digital Talent Instagram account to demonstrate what you can tell about our company culture. On our Instagram, we want to present an image that shows what we are like to work for. We want to emphasise that we have a great team who get on well and are fun to work with. We like to engage in celebrations like Halloween and Christmas and so have posts about these. Our office is based in a converted factory with lots of other businesses, so we try to be active in this community. We have posts about the food vans that come as well as parties and events. Occasionally we shout out the other companies when they have anniversaries etc. Employee mental health is important, so we have some posts for mental health days.

Lots of businesses will show awards, after-work drinks, networking events, and pets etc. This all demonstrates that they want someone who is going to gel well in that team and is going to engage with stuff like this.

Read reviews

Reviews online can be great, but take them with a pinch of salt. Remember that people only tend to write reviews if they’re either really impressed or really disappointed. If it’s just average, many people won’t bother to review something. Online reviews can also be faked easily. If a company has particularly bad reviews, they may ask current members of staff to write really good reviews to balance it out. If you come across a company which seems to have a big mix of really good and really bad reviews then this is a red flag.

It is also important to remember that everyone has different experiences and opinions. Additionally, a jobs workforce changes quite a lot year on year. Therefore, just because someone had a bad experience doesn’t mean you will. You can read what it’s like to work at the company on Glassdoor and you can read customer reviews of the company on Google.

Speak to a recruiter

If you have applied to the role through a recruiter, then make sure you have an in-depth conversation with them. Ask them about the company and how other people have found working there. A good recruitment consultant will have been on client visits to the company and may have placed multiple people there so they will have a very good idea of what the company is like.

Speak to someone you know that works there

Make the most of any connections and really find out what the company is like to work for day-to-day. They will probably give you a much more in-depth and honest account of the company.

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Deciding if the company culture is right for you

Decide what you want out of the job

Many people have an ideal job role in their head that they want to go for. This often means they end up forgetting how important the culture of the company is. Often, it’s not unless you experience a company culture that you don’t like that you discover what you want (or don’t). Some people really excel in a high-pressure environment and need things like commission as a big incentive. Alternatively, some people might value a more laid back job with a good work-life balance. They may look for things such as flexible working/working from home, so they can more easily adapt their job around their life.

What size is the company?

Do you like to be in a bigger, corporate environment or do prefer to be part of a smaller team where you know everyone? If you aren’t sure of this, ask yourself do you want one very specific role as part of a bigger team? Or do you prefer your role to be more diverse and having to get stuck in on multiple projects? There are advantages to working in companies of all different sizes. A corporate role may come with a good benefits package, early finishes, social environment etc. Whereas a role at a smaller company may mean you get to develop a much wider set of skills.

How supportive are they and what are their opportunities for progression?

In your interview, be sure to ask about learning and development opportunities. There is a delicate balance between sounding enthusiastic and showing you’re willing to work hard and progress, and just sounding like this job is a means to an end, and you’re already looking to move on from it. You could also try and research details like how long people have worked there. If lots of people have been with the company for a long time, then it suggests the work is fulfilling and they treat their staff nicely. If they have a very high staff turnover, then it suggests it might be unfulfilling or employees are not treated nicely.

Do they have the right social atmosphere for you?

Some people just want to go to work and get the job done. Conversely, some people really value having friends and socialising with colleagues outside of work. It is very important to make sure that the company fits you. If you join a very sociable company but never socialise outside of work, it may make it harder for you. If you really want to socialise and make friends but the company is really quiet, you may also find it hard.

Do you feel like there are any gender or racial biases?

Workplace diversity is very important for a successful business. Additionally, no one should feel uncomfortable or discriminated against at work. It is perfectly acceptable to trust your gut about a workplace and decide to not continue your application due to this. It may be as simple as feeling like the culture is a bit ‘laddy’ for you. You will most likely have to be there for 40+ hours a week, so you do not want to feel uncomfortable.

How to demonstrate you are the right cultural fit for a company?

Ask questions about it during your interview

How does the team celebrate success at work? How do the team cope with difficulty or setbacks at work? Questions like these will give you a good indication of how the teams work together. Other examples of questions are:

How would you describe your company culture?

What is your favourite thing about working for this company?

What is the structure of the company like?

Does the company give back to the community in any way?

How do you evaluate success?

How often do you hold company-wide meetings?

Describe the work-life balance of employees.

Why are you proud of this company?

What activities do you offer for employees?

What do people tend to do for lunch every day?

How much time do senior members of staff spend in the office?

Be aware of small things like dress code

Research what the dress code is before your interview. If the company is a corporate environment where you are expected to wear a suit and tie, then make sure you come in smart business dress. However, lots of companies have a more casual office dress code so try and match this.

Try and express your personality in your interview

When you have a job interview it is completely natural to feel nervous. This may mean that your personality does not come across as strong or the conversation doesn’t flow. Try to stay calm and be yourself. Show your more human side instead of just your polished and professional work personality.

Talk about specific examples of how you display the company values

If the company has its core values on its website then make sure you demonstrate how you display those. Important values and traits may also be mentioned in the job description. This may be examples from your job, but also from your home-life too. We are increasingly seeing job adverts that discuss hobbies the employees have in common. Some examples of these we have seen are cycling, ‘foodie’ or animal-lover.

Treat everyone with respect

The way you treat people says a lot about your character. If you are charming and respectful to your interviewer yet are arrogant and rude to their receptionist, then this gives a very bad impression. Make sure you treat everyone at the company nicely and make the effort to smile and introduce yourself.

Company culture can be something that is very challenging to identify and pinpoint. Quite often it is something you only notice if there are clashes. We hope you found this guide helpful and that it helps you secure a job with the perfect company culture for you. If an employer feels that you would be a perfect fit for a company but you don’t have the right qualifications then you may still be offered a job. In some instances, the employer may even create a new role for you. If you are looking for an exciting new tech role then get in touch with us! We have a wide range of roles across the tech, data and digital spheres. We work with lots of exciting companies, so we are sure to have something that’s the perfect cultural fit.

About the author: I manage the recruitment for a range of digital roles for my clients on both a retained and contingency basis. I specialise in senior and confidential appointments, always giving a first class representation of a client’s employer brand.

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