You have heard the term “culture fit” a hundred times by now. Maybe you’ve even been thrown for a loop by a few tough interview questions about it. But what does culture fit mean? Why is it so important for employers to know your greatest weakness or what coworkers find annoying about you? The short answer is they want happy employees who are excited to come to work. The real answer to finding your culture fit is a bit longer and more complicated than that.

What is culture fit?

According to the Society for Human Resource Management:

“The key to running a successful organization is to have a culture based on a strongly held and widely shared set of beliefs that are appropriately supported by strategy and structure.”

That’s quite a mouthful. Basically, each company you apply to will have a different culture and therefore a different type of employee they are looking for. Some companies will focus on openness or team building, while others may use incentives to drive their employees.

So, why should that matter to you? Remember that it’s a two-way street. Aside from knowing whether you are the type of employee they are looking for, you need to know if the company is right fit for you.

Finding your happy place

Take a second and look back at the places you have worked that made you the happiest. This place doesn’t have to be a job. It can be a time when you were at school, working on a volunteer project, or even when you had to complete a task with friends. What were the key points about that time that made you the happiest?

Maybe you enjoyed working with a group of people, chatting and building ideas from constant open communication, and debating concepts with your peers. Or you could be the type of person who flourishes when working independently, finds glory in meeting deadlines and reaching new personal goals. You can even be in the middle ground and enjoy socializing but only on your terms and in small doses. Finding what environments make you the happiest can be critical in finding the right company to work for.

Why does it matter?

If you’re more on the introverted side, working in an open concept office might be stressful to you. It won’t give you a safe place to retreat if you are at your social limit for the day and need to decompress. The company may focus on team building and you could run into the situation of feeling like your ideas are never heard because they expect you to speak in front of a crowd.

Extroverts can face the same challenges in the workplace but in a different way. If they are expected to be chained to a cubicle all day and focus solely on themselves, you can bet they are going to have issues in the long run. Trying to talk to coworkers could be distracting and debating ideas can be deemed too aggressive or pushy by management.

Neither situation has a happy outcome for a company or an employee. Both will have to deal with bad feelings, lost productivity, and unnecessary hardships. All this could have been avoided in the first place by ensuring a good culture fit during the interview and providing an honest outlook on what it’s like working for the company.

Honestly, who are you?

You know who you are and what type of working environment you need to be productive. When searching for a job, you usually only get to see the basic job description and short blurb about what they do and who they are looking for. So, how do you find out if this job fits the culture you are looking for?

You can usually get more in depth by looking for keywords and phrases they use, but it won’t tell you the whole story. Have you ever heard of the people who think they have found the perfect marketing job, only to walk into a shady conference room with a guy trying to sell them the next cutting-edge knife set? It happens more often than you think.

Doing your research

The internet is your best friend when considering a possible employer. Find their official website and look at what type of content they put forward. You can usually tell what beliefs they hold by a mission statement or on the company’s “about us” page. Pay attention to the language and tone they use – this is a good indicator of what the working environment will be like. Use websites that allow current and former employees to review the company, like Glassdoor. This can give you a look inside the day-to-day expectations of employees and show you potential red flags. If each review touches on a specific issue, you can expect that issue to come up if you work there. Keep looking until you are satisfied you have a good idea of the culture. That way, you can be sure you are making the best choice for your future.

Adding the culture fit box to your already long checklist when finding a job can be intimidating. But taking the time to do proper research and self-reflection can make your future endeavors more rewarding for both you and your employers. Remember, when you’re looking for a job, you are evaluating them as much as they are evaluating you.

About This Author

Sara Currie is a technical recruiter for Cloud Assessments with a passion for people and many years juggling all aspects of Human Resources. If she isn’t trying to help people reach for their dreams you can usually find her immersed in the newest book series- unintentionally ignoring the world around her. Seriously, the building could be on fire and she wouldn’t notice.

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