How to Vet Company Culture During a Job Search

Why Company Culture Matters & How to Vet a Company’s Culture When You’re Applying

A toxic workplace culture can be toxic for your health. As we detailed in “10 Ways Your Job Could Literally be Killing You,” negativity in the workplace can lead to unhealthy amounts of stress, which is correlated with health issues like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

When you’re applying for jobs, you should consider the company culture of the places you’re applying with. While the work may be interesting and cater to your strengths, bad relationships and interactions can overshadow the good.

Here are some reasons why it’s important to take company culture into consideration and how to ensure your future employer’s culture fits your values.

What Is Company Culture?

Company culture is a broad term describing the qualitative characteristics of an organization. It encompasses a company’s:

  • Values
  • Mission
  • Work environment
  • Leadership styles
  • Attitudes
  • Goals
  • Ethics

You might see it company culture characteristics outlined on a company’s “About Us” page on their website. It permeates interactions within a company and how a company and its employees present themselves to the public.

Company culture attributes can also affect product and service development and how the brand relates to customers.

Why Does Company Culture Matter?

Company culture is important because it drives business success and keeps employees engaged. According to McKinsey & Company research, a survey of more than 1,000 organizations with 3 million individuals found those with top quartile cultures posted a 60% higher return to stakeholders compared to median companies. The return was 200% higher than those in the bottom quartile.

A strong company culture also facilitates change and transformation. For companies with unhealthy cultures, McKinsey & Company found 70% of transformations fail, with 70% of those failures due to culture-related issues.

Today, it’s unfortunately not common for company values to align with those of employees. According to Gallup, only 27% of employees strongly agree they believe in their company’s values.

When employees do identify with the company culture, the results are remarkable: a 50-point increase in employee engagement over a 3-year period. As we covered in our report on employee engagement, a lack of engagement is correlated with negative effects on mood and stress levels. Low engagement also leads to a higher risk of accidents and a higher incidence of illness and absenteeism.

Company Culture Affects Work Quality

It’s likely that a negative company culture will affect work quality at some point, whether that’s due to a lack of engagement, distraction, impact to confidence or some other negative effect. When you’re applying for jobs and comparing employers, investigate the company culture using the following methods. Then, you’ll have a better understanding of what to expect and will know whether or not the employer is a fit.

1. Visit the Company’s Website

Look at an employer’s website for its About Us page, and any pages detailing the company’s mission and values. Those may not accurately represent what’s actually going on inside company walls, but they’ll give you an idea of what the company aspires to be.

2. Check Out the Employer’s Social Media Channels

Social media is a form of public relations. See how a company represents itself on sites like Facebook and Instagram. View responses to customer interactions and the types of language that’s used in posts. See if the people of a company are highlighted and how.

3. Ask About Company Culture During an Interview

When an interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?”, use that as an opportunity to enquire about how they’d describe the company culture. Pay attention to nonverbal cues and whether the interviewer is confident and positive during the answer or unsure and hesitant.

Also, take in detailed observations if you’re offered an office tour during an interview. Note your interactions with other employees, see how employees are interacting with each other and notice the vibe (busy, stressed, relaxed, cheerful) you get from the work environment.

4. Check in With Your Network

If you know someone who has ties to the employer, ask them for their opinion of the company culture. If you don’t know anyone directly, use LinkedIn to see if any of your connections are connected to someone who has worked there.

Head to the company’s web page on LinkedIn. You’ll be able to see if any of your current connections are connected with the company. If not, click on employees. From there, you can see employees you might share a connection in common with. You can reach out to your connections to see if they can ask about the company for you, or help you connect with their connection who works there.

5. Search Online

Other clues to a company culture may be available online. Search news about the company. You might be able to read recent press releases or find articles about the employer.

Also, check out sites like Glassdoor, where current and former employees review companies. Search for the employer you’re considering to get a view of the business.

6. Vet Before You Accept

If you’re offered a position but you have lingering questions about the company culture, ask if you can shadow someone on the job for a day before you commit. That should give you a clearer view of what it’s like to work there. You might get the opportunity to meet more of the team that way.

Get More Job Seeker Tips

When you’re on the job hunt, you should vet companies just as much as they’re considering you as a candidate. A better understanding of the employer’s company culture can ensure you’re a fit for the long-term. Be proactive in getting an idea of what the company culture is like, so you can avoid a toxic workplace that makes you want to quit and start the job search process all over again.

If you’re interested in job search services, view our job seeker programs, including interview preparation, resume writing, LinkedIn profile optimization and more.