Could This Be the One? Evaluating the Culture of a Prospective Employer

In our previous post, Choosing the Right Company Culture for Your Personality, we examined some of the ways to better understand your own work personality, as well as how to think about some of the different variables that make up a company’s culture, and how they may impact you should you choose to work there.

Finding a new employer is a lot like dating. Some matches sound great up front, but quickly fizzle out due to a lack of chemistry. Others seem to work for a while, but the relationship ultimately fails due to irreconcilable differences in your respective needs or how you view the world. So how can you tell if a prospective employer is one that you might really hit it off with in a meaningful way?

Basically it comes down to doing your homework, asking the right questions, and trusting your gut.

Do Your Homework

Prospective employers expect you to learn about their products and services in advance, but they often don’t have the same expectation around evaluating cultural fit. Nevertheless, it’s in your interest to make yourself as informed as possible up front.

Before walking into an interview, or even submitting a resume to a company, it’s a good idea to do some basic research to determine if the company’s culture might be a good fit for you.

Consider the cultural variables we discussed in the previous post: Size and Structure, Work-Life Balance, Formality, Communication Style, Teamwork Style, Stability vs. Risk, and Success. Keeping these factors in mind, there are a number of ways to go about learning more about a company and its culture. Some of the most effective ones include:

  • Company Website. Always look through various parts of the site to see how the company portrays itself to different audiences. The Careers section may tell one story, but the Investor Relations page and the customer-facing product and service pages may offer different angles, or in extreme cases may sound like they’re describing different organizations altogether.
  • Social Media. What is the company saying on Facebook and Twitter? And often more importantly, what are other people saying about the company? Does the organization engage in open dialogue in the face of criticism, or does management try to sweep controversy under the virtual rug?
  • News articles. For larger companies, see what is being said about the firm in the media. Pay attention to whether a story comes from the company’s own press release, or whether it originates from external sources.
  • Company Review Sites. While the company’s website will give you an idealized view of the company’s brand and culture, websites such as Glassdoor.com and Vault.com can be great tools for understanding how real employees feel about their working environment.
  • Inside Sources. Ask around or use resources such as LinkedIn and Facebook to see if anyone in your extended network works at the company. Such individuals can be an invaluable resource in learning about the true day-to-day atmosphere at the company. Most people are happy to talk about their work and their companies. If someone is reluctant to share their thoughts about their employer, that may be a corporate culture red flag.

Ask the Right Questions

Once you have an interview, or even just a casual meeting with an inside source, it’s important to consider what questions to ask. Be sure to be diplomatic in your approach, while trying to hone in on the information that’s most important to you in your job search. Consider questions such as:

  • What makes this company unique?
  • How would you describe the essence or soul of the organization?
  • How would you describe the day-to-day working atmosphere?
  • What does success look like in the organization? Failure?

What kind of person doesn’t do well here? (Most employers will describe the perfect candidate in similar terms - smart, driven, etc. You can learn more by addressing the qualities that have most often led to failure.)

In addition, look back at those cultural variables from our previous post, and try to see where you think this company may fit particularly well with your own work personality, and where there are potential problems. In both cases you should ask further questions to clarify your understanding of the working environment, so that you’ll be better prepared to make an informed decision should you be offered the position.

Trust Your Gut

Ultimately, to find success in a career and love your work, you have to be happy and feel comfortable in your workplace. Some of this happiness can be codified in terms of the variables of workplace culture and the answers to specific questions, but some of it is just a matter of intuition. If you feel good in a particular environment but can’t say exactly why, take that into account. Likewise if you come out of an interview feeling uncomfortable despite receiving the “right” answers to all of your questions, don’t ignore that either.

Look around you while you’re on site. How are public spaces organized and decorated? How are personal desk spaces organized and decorated? How are people interacting with one another? Do your interviewers discuss everything openly, or do they seem reserved?

These may seem like small matters, but they can make a big difference in your happiness on the job.

Putting It All Together

Using these techniques, you should be equipped to start evaluating whether a potential employer’s company culture might be a good fit for your needs. But how can you go about locating prospective employers in the first place, taking into account your company culture preferences?

Enginuity can help you locate specific job matches with a high probability of cultural fit, based on your unique work personality and cultural preferences. Creating your profile can start you on the path to finding that employer who just might be “The One.”


Enginuity is an innovative tool that goes beyond the resume to match great engineers with the job they’ll love. Create your FREE profile and let Enginuity find your dream job.