How to understand a company’s culture

by | career success | 1 comment

So you have finally landed what you thought was your dream job only to find after a couple of months that the company culture is not what you’d hoped for. Maybe it’s because you just can’t get on with your some of your new colleagues, there are a lot of company politics, or your boss clearly doesn’t think you are suited for the job. On the other hand, perhaps the company you work for has been bought over bringing in a new corporate culture whose values are not aligned to your own.

Is dusting down your CV the answer? And how do you determine a company’s culture so you don’t end up in the same position again?

It can be very difficult to determine exactly what a company’s culture and values are. They may state them on the company website but how accurate is this and why is it that very few people who work there will actually tell you what the company is really like – perhaps they are unsure themselves.

In order to understand a company’s culture, you need to begin by looking at the industry it is in, who are its competitors and who are the customers, what market does it serve and is it regulated.  You then need to look at what drives the company, is it its customers, suppliers or pricing policy for example.

Is it a high risk, high reward culture where you are expected to win at all costs – selling on the stock exchange for example; Is it a team culture where the attitude is work hard/play hard for example in some sales positions; or is it very bureaucratic for example in government or some banking positions.

Once you have a clearer picture of this you will be better placed to see how good a fit you are.

If you are looking to change job because you don’t feel that you fit in with the company culture, here are 3 tips to ensure you don’t make the same mistake again:

  • Do your homework about the company – check out its website and annual reports and read between the lines; do you see lots of numbers or pictures of happy clients, is it technical or customer focussed. What, if anything, does it say about senior management, what is their background and what is important to them – is it service, safety or the bottom line?
  • Talk to a few of the employees – or contact them via LinkedIn and find out about the appraisal system, how they are rewarded, how long have they worked there, what are the prospects for promotion for example.
  • During the interview, listen out for clues that show that employees are respected. The emphasis here is on the word ‘show’ if you are just told that employees are the company’s most important asset then ask for evidence to back up this statement.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how well paid the job is if you don’t feel respected and your values don’t match with those of the company then you won’t be happy or successful.

Do your research, ask questions and make sure you understand the company’s culture before accepting your next job.

Not sure if you are in the right job?

Contact Anne for a career check.


I am a Certified Advanced Resume Writer, Employment Interview Consultant, and Career Coach and it is my aim to help ambitious and motivated people like you become fully empowered to get the job you want.