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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Culture is crucial: How job seekers can find the best match

Job seekers can improve their chances of ending up with a job that makes them happy and excited to grow by taking a careful look into a company’s culture before they even apply.

Culture is crucial: How job seekers can find the best match
[Buildings by Mike Mareen/Adobe Stock] [Woman with binoculars by Alliance/Adobe Stock]

Imagine a job you look forward to every day. Would it look like Twitter once did, with rooftop meetings, free meals, yoga classes, and unlimited vacation time? Or maybe it would be a place like Zoom that is so invested in employee happiness that it has a “happiness crew” to maintain company culture through events, celebrations, community involvement, and volunteering. Maybe you imagine sliding down Google’s slide or playing a game at Infosys’s bowling alley.

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Perks like these may sound too good to be true. Not only are they real, but they’ve set a gold standard for company culture that job seekers today are demanding more than ever. And they’re getting it. With access to so much information, people can easily learn about the best cultures out there and weigh a prospective company’s culture heavily when they’re deciding whether or not to apply for a job.

Job seekers can improve their chances of ending up with a job that makes them happy and excited to grow by taking a careful look into a company’s culture before they even apply.

JOB SEEKERS TODAY EXPECT A STRONG CULTURE

A strong company culture has been on the top of job seekers’ minds since well before the pandemic. Only now, it’s a job seeker’s market, which puts them in the position to expect more from companies and be able to turn down those that fail to impress them. They want higher pay, but even more than benefits and perks, employees want a culture where they feel respected and supported by their leaders, and they want those leaders to live out the core values of the company. With mental health becoming such a high priority for employees, major companies are even promoting proactive workplace well-being initiatives—but at the heart of all these offerings are indicators of a specific company culture.

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Being a job seeker today comes with another advantage: technology. We have more access to information now than ever before, which means job seekers can more closely scrutinize companies and get a feel for their culture before diving in. This flood of knowledge may be why younger generations have higher expectations around healthy and supportive company cultures. By extracting information about how a company engages and supports its employees, job seekers can make smarter decisions than ever about their next job.

BECOME A DETECTIVE

Finding the company culture best suited to meet your needs is like solving a mystery. And like a detective, you need to follow the clues to get there. Start online. Find the company website and read its mission and vision statements. Look at its social media and any other public records it has available. These clues can give you a good idea of what a company’s environment is like. A company’s online presence can tell you if the organization prioritizes culture, because those that do proudly incorporate it in their branding.

Be sure to read between the lines. Analyze how a company describes the job you’re considering. If the language seems exclusionary, for example, you might end up in a less diverse workforce. If a company is more traditional, tending to use terms like “results-driven, dominant, competitive, leader,” these can reflect a more cut-throat business environment—something to avoid if it’s not what you’re looking for. Before you respond to a job post, look for words that communicate what you want in a company’s culture. This could be a sense of inclusion, cooperation, trust, or whatever else you need to thrive at your place of work.

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ASK SPECIFIC QUESTIONS

During the interview process, ask specific questions about company culture. Don’t do this directly because that might not result in an authentic response. Instead, ask about specific scenarios that offer insight into company behavior: “How do you align teams that disagree?” or “How do you resolve conflict in the workplace?” Look for signals in their responses that tell you what their company culture is like, even if those signals contradict the official language.

If you seek remote work, ask potential companies if they have sufficient documentation for onboarding remote employees or if they offer onboarding buddies. A company with a supportive remote culture will already have these in place. Some of the teams at my company are fully remote, and some employees are only part-time, so we have a system in place to make sure those people are invited to team events. Companies should also have steps in the onboarding process that make new remote employees feel like they’re part of the organization. By framing your questions around the specific traits you want a company culture to offer, you can use the answers to determine if the company interviewing you has them.

We spend so much time working—nearly one-third of our waking lives. It seems more than worth it to invest our efforts into making sure the company we apply to will also make us happy. Figure out what you want in life, and if you have certain goals, look for indications that you can actually achieve them in a specific job. If you can’t, applying for that job anyway can have a massive impact on your ability to develop your career. When you look for companies through the lens of their company culture, instead of discovering a post-onboarding nightmare, you end up finding the productivity, diversity, employee retention, and innovation levels that best match your needs.

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Gergo Vari is Founder and CEO of Lensa, a job board built on technology that puts people first.

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