exploring cultureWhat is corporate culture? Corporate culture describes the atmosphere and mix of people who work at a particular company. The corporate culture at a high achieving accounting firm may be strict and formal. Working hours might be longer than usual, the employees may comprise of mostly workaholics, and the atmosphere will probably feel intense. On the other hand, a start-up social media company may have a more relaxed corporate culture, with unorthodox working hours, casual attire, and usually a younger staff.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to apply to jobs regardless of whether or not a company is a good culture fit for you. If you are unemployed for three, six, or even twelve months, you may apply to any job in sight. I respect that. I was in that position in 2008, 2009, and 2011. It’s important to find work when you are struggling to support yourself and your family. However, this guide is for those who have an opportunity to choose a job for the long term. No matter how desperate you are, it is important to find a job where you can stay sane on a daily basis. Here are some tips for finding the right culture fit for you:

1. Research the Company Online. This may seem self-explanatory, but I can’t tell you how many times candidates call our recruiting office without a clue about what we do. If you are applying for a job, find out what the company stands for and if this is a company you would want to support. Look up the company’s website, the company’s wikipedia, and any recent news articles discussing the company’s performance. A great site for company reviews is Glassdoor.com. Forums and blogs can also give you an insider’s look at a company’s corporate culture.

2. Connect with Current Employees. First network among your own friends and family for people who work for the company you are interested in. Next, turn to networking events, college alumni networks, and websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn to connect with people who work at your company of choice. Instead of approaching current employees with a referral request, ask for advice. Ask, “What do you like about Company X? How do you like working there? What do you like most about your current position? What would you change?” Many professionals like talking about their experiences at a company, especially if it is a company that has given them a great experience with a solid salary and benefits.

3. Examine the Application and Interview Process. Is this a company that requests very specific information in the application? Chances are, the company will be choosier with its pool of applicants and more demanding of its current employees. Does this company hire on the spot? Or does it require three interviews? The more time a company takes in making a decision, the more it cares about choosing employees who will stay for the long run. Be careful of companies who hire too easily, advertise their salaries online, “guarantee” positions, or make you pay for training. These companies usually have high turnover rates.

4. Include Personal Attributes in Your Resume. Include volunteer, hobby, or personal attributes in your resume. This does not need to be extensive, nor is it required. You want to give employers a feel for your character and background. This will help them determine whether you will mesh well with the rest of your future team. For example, if you are interested in theater and dancing, you might not mesh well with an office full of hardcore baseball fans with no interest in Broadway. This is a very general assumption, but giving your recruiters a general sense of your personality will help them match you with the right group of coworkers.

Job hunting for a good culture fit is important. If you spend somewhere between 40-60 hours a week at work, a company‚Äôs culture should align with your own personality and standards. While salary, position, and commuting distance are important, corporate culture can make or break an employee. Compensation is the usually the number one reason why employees leave, but a bad corporate culture can force anywhere between 30-40% of employees to quit. That’s why it is important to carefully consider your options before committing to a job that you plan to keep for the long term.

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