Finding the best cultural fit within your professional life

The job market is often very competitive. Employers have very specific criteria that they look for in a new hire, and one position may have multiple competing candidates. The St. Catherine University Career Development Office has staff and tools to help St. Kate’s students and alumni present themselves in the best professional light possible. In the same way, when a person is entering or reentering the job market, they should put time into researching employers to ensure they apply for jobs that are well suited for their preferences, experience, and skills. Here are some steps and strategies for measuring cultural fit with a prospective employer.

Decide what you believe is important

Values are what you find deeply important. What are your values? Your career should have components of them in order for it to be fulfilling and purposeful. When you consider your career options, what factors seem most important to you? What will you most need in a work environment in order to be satisfied? 

I have just recently started a summer internship writing for a magazine. The initial reason I chose this internship was that it would give me real-world journalism experience, but I was immediately impressed with my supervisor’s attentiveness to her interns and workers. Within the first week, she told us that if anyone is ever offensive to us because we are young women in this industry, she will back us up as her employees. “I will always defend my workers,” she said. “But remember that you do not need to take it when people offend you.”

Having a good boss who will stick up for their employees in sticky situations is important, but also put some time into brainstorming other elements that are important to you when considering an employer. Do they include; An ability to advance in the company? Good communication? Commit to values such as individual growth, relationships, working conditions, recognition, achievement, or independence. Write down your ideas and questions. They will come in handy when researching and interviewing.

Do your research

After you have determined what is most important to you in the attributes of an employer, do your research. Complete an internet search on the company in which you are interested, and if possible, network to establish professional connections to people within the organization. Check out the prospective employer’s website, LinkedIn page, and other potential social media they have. Glassdoor.com is another great resource to learn about the interview process, salary, and reviews about a company.

Familiarizing yourself with the prospective employer is always a good idea before a job interview, but researching what the company stands for and who leads it, can be a great indicator of the company’s culture. Reviewing the company’s media presence can illuminate any red flags and help you to avoid wasting your time and theirs.

An obvious, but important indicator, is looking into the company’s mission statement. If you don’t agree with their mission statement, this may not be the place for you. If you have questions or are intrigued by the mission statement, write them down and bring them up in your interview.

Another great point to research is whether the company does any kind of charity and whether they have partnerships or sponsorships with other non-profit organizations. Look at the kinds of events and people they support when deciding if they align with your own beliefs.

One of the most poignant points of reference when determining the vibe of a company are the people who currently work there. If you can arrange to meet current employees or network with people that can arrange an introduction, ask the employee about their job, what they like or don’t like about it, their observance of the company’s culture and other pressing questions you have. They will more than likely have some great insights for you.

Ask questions in the interview

Remember, that an interview is a conversation. You, the potential employee, are able to and absolutely should ask questions. If you have determined through your research that the company aligns with your beliefs and are asked in for an interview, here are a few examples of questions to ask in the interview process. 

If you found something intriguing or confusing when you conducted your research, bring it up in your interview. This not only will clear up questions that you have but will show your potential employer that you did your research and are interested in learning more about the company.

In the interview with your potential boss ask them for an example of a time they had to handle a difficult situation. For example, “How do you handle situations where someone says something offensive in the workplace?” or, “Can you tell me about a situation in which you spoke up for or defended an employee?” By asking these types of questions, you can get a good sense of the company’s values as well as gauging their leadership style.

Don’t be afraid to speak up

Finally, remember to be true to your values and beliefs and speak up when you are feeling unheard or pushed aside in the workplace.

Whether you are new to a job or have been there for years, if somebody says something that is offensive to you or a colleague, don’t be afraid to speak up.

Of course, you should be mindful of each situation, and remember that others may not have the same beliefs or communication style as you. However, if someone is behaving in an inappropriate or offensive manner to you, remember that your voice matters.

Finding a good cultural fit with a potential or current employer is important. Stay true to your values, do your research, ask questions, and stand up for yourself. You have that right. 

If you have any questions about the job search and interview process, remember the St. Kate’s Career Development Office is here as a resource. To make an appointment, call (651) 690-8890 or email askcareer@stkate.edu.

By Mandy Hay
Mandy Hay Career Assistant Mandy Hay