When you’re on the job hunt, you have to juggle an almost unimaginable number of factors while trying to find your perfect fit: skills, experience, location, benefits, pay … the list goes on and on.

One factor in particular that you should never overlook is cultural fit.

Many job seekers look first at essentials like pay and benefits, but once you’ve found companies that meet your needs in those areas, you should next narrow down your list according to company culture. After all, culture is highly correlated with employee happiness.

So, how exactly do you analyze the culture of a potential employer? You answer the following questions:

1. What Does the Company Value?

Ensuring your goals align with your potential employer’s goals is the first step in narrowing down your list according to company culture. What is the organization’s purpose? What makes the employees proud to be working there? Is it the work ethic each employee brings to the table, the speed of project turnover each team exhibits, or both? There is no “correct” set of values, but making sure you understand how a company operates can help you determine whether or not the culture is right for you.

2. Does the Company Encourage Paths of Learning?

Once you find out what’s important to the organization, it’s time to identify how you should go about learning the ropes and what type of path is expected at the company.

Did you interview with a small team that encourages self-taught learning through simple Googling? Or was it a team that goes by the book and encourages you to ask questions each step of the way?

It may be a combination of the two, and it’s typically easy to gauge this during the interview or when you meet the team members. Take the time to think about what would be best for you. Do you like having one-on-one time with your superior, or are you better off on your own? Keep in mind, however, that 78 percent of employees who report having a meaningful discussion with their manager about their strengths feel their work is making a difference and is appreciated.

tracksYou also want to take the time to read up on the organization. Find the company’s mission and value statements, read reviews, and talk with people who are not involved with the hiring or recruiting process. Customers and suppliers can be especially helpful, if you can track them down. They’ll be able to give you a different perspective on the company culture that you would otherwise not be able to find.

3. How Quickly Does the Company Expect You to Get Acclimated?

Now that you know what you should be learning and how, you may want to take the time frame into consideration. Although it typically takes eight months for a new employee to reach full productivity, particular organizations often have their own definitions of productivity and their own expectations regarding how quickly you should reach it.

To find out how a potential employer handles new employee development, you can ask your interviewer questions like:

- How does your company respond to and overcome failures?

- Do you have a grace period for new hires as they get acquainted with new processes? If so, how long is it?

- What kinds of people seem to succeed in this position?

These types of questions should give you an insight into what is expected from team members and in what kind of time frame.

Finding out what, how, and when you’re supposed to be learning can give you a new perspective on company culture that you wouldn’t have if you focused only on team outings and breakroom snacks. The way you adjust to life with a new employer can greatly affect your likeliness to stay at that position. By focusing on how well the company’s expectations and values align with your own, you can find your perfect cultural fit in no time!

Maren Hogan is the chief marketing brain at Red Branch Media.

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