Does Cultural Fit Matter? Why Job Seekers Should Focus on Culture

Published by

Jennifer Sethre

Over the past few years, “culture” has been a hot topic in the corporate world, defining what the company culture is and employees deciding what kind of company culture they want. When job hunting, prospects no longer only look at salary - though this is still very important; now, people want a good cultural fit to ensure success and happiness in the workplace.

Cultural fit can be challenging to define, but it’s very easy to tell when it’s missing. It can be loosely defined as when a company’s values and culture align with employee’s behaviors, beliefs, and workplace habits. Cultural fit is crucial for both job seekers and employers. Thankfully, this concept has grown in importance on both sides.

Why employers prioritize cultural fit

Recent studies show the importance of hiring someone who fits with the company culture. Businesses have been paying attention to this element because high employee turnover is expensive. Leadership IQ found that of all newly hired employees, 46% will fail within 18 months. The common belief was that these people fail at a new company because they lack the technical or business skills necessary for the position. However, only 11% of these employees fail because they lack technical skills; 89% fail because of other difficulties integrating into the workplace, including cultural fit.

Turnover from poor cultural fit is expensive; the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found it can cost a business between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary. Over the past five years, SHRM found that turnover due to culture may have cost organizations upwards of $223 billion.

Businesses now understand that an employee with a good culture fit will perform better and stay with the company longer. What can be complicated is that employees cannot be trained to align with the company culture. Whereas technical skills, programs, and best practices are easily passed down to new employees, fitting in with the company culture is not teachable.

Why job hunters should find a good cultural fit

The job hunt can be incredibly frustrating, and many people get to the point where they do not prioritize culture; they simply want to start working in their industry as soon as possible. For those job seekers, the cultural fit may have to take a backseat; however, for job hunters who are looking for something better than their current position, it’s vital to prioritize cultural fit.

There are varying examples of cultural fit. For example, some companies do not care where or when their employees work. Anyone can come into work at 2 pm, stay until past midnight, or work from home. Other businesses expect the whole team to pitch in until the job is done, which means everyone has to stay until 9 pm on Tuesday. Cultural fit can also be an open workspace versus offices, how the hierarchy works internally, company communication best practices and tools, etc. Figuring out the company culture can be difficult, but it is certainly worth it.

Employees who are a good cultural fit are happier and reap financial benefits as well. Happier employees perform better, earn 1.2 - 1.7% more than their unhappy counterparts, and find themselves above industry benchmarks. Being a good cultural fit, therefore, means learning more, high levels of professional development, and enjoying the day-to-day more. Clearly, it’s worth finding a good fit, but how can a prospect understand the culture at a company before starting a position?

Tips to help assess a company’s culture

The interview process is the time to gather as much information as possible about a company’s culture. While some assessments may have to be subtle, these guidelines can help understand the company fit.

Take notice of everything from the initial greeting to goodbyes

When you walk into the office for an interview, who greets you? Is that person hurried and flustered? How do employees seem? Are they collaborating and lively or locked in cubicles and quiet?

If taken right into a conference room, ask for a tour of the office to see how employees work. Does someone walk you to an elevator at the end of the interview or shoo you away because they are busy? All of these cues will give hints as to the real culture.

Ask each interviewer culture questions

Most people are interviewed by numerous people on the team, especially in various rounds of the interview process. To get a holistic view of the company culture, it’s important to ask each person how he or she views the company.

Starting with the basics, ask each person how long they’ve been there. If everyone is brand new (and the company is not), that will speak volumes. Also, consider asking,

  • How does the company measure success?
  • What do you like about working at this company?
  • Does the company prioritize professional development? If so, how exactly?
  • Is the team collaborative? And how do teams work together and across departments?
  • How are both successes and failures addressed?
Research and assess feelings

While researching, most candidates look at reviews of companies on sites such as Glassdoor. It’s important to read those with a grain of salt as people are more likely to leave bad reviews than good ones. However, finding only terrible reviews may key into something wrong with company culture.

What’s crucial in the assessment process is taking stock of feelings while in the office or while being interviewed. Did it feel awkward and uncomfortable? Or did it feel casual and relaxed? Gut feelings can sometimes be the deciding factor when it comes to cultural fit.

Understanding what type of culture works best for each individual is difficult as well, which is why we developed the TrueYouᵀᴹ Assessment. This career assessment determines work characteristics, as well as cultural traits that may be important in your job hunt. To figure out what cultural values are important, sign up for Intry and take the assessment.