The Career Conversation
Updated Nov 21, 2019

Proving you’re the right person for the job is, understandably, the top priority when applying for one. But it’s worth exploring if the company offering it, is also the right place for you.


Your chances of enjoying your time and succeeding at an organisation are greatly enhanced if you are compatible with its culture. You’ll also benefit at interview time if you can show your interest and that you have taken a moment to find out more about the company.


Clearly, there are occasions when you just need to take a job. But your chances of enjoying your time and succeeding at an organization are greatly enhanced if you are compatible with its culture.

Broadly speaking a company’s culture refers to the shared vision and core values that unite employees to work together to achieve a common goal. During the recruitment process the focus is on whether you will fit into that culture and we have plenty of tips for hiring managers on how to assess that in an objective way. But this advice can, and should, be used by candidates to make sure the company is the right fit for you too.

That’s doesn’t simply mean finding out if you’ll like the people you’ll work with. Evaluating the suitability of a potential employer is about understanding its leadership and what they value; its structures and size; its location and working environment and the flexibility and work policies it offers.

If you’re right for each other, you’re more likely to stay with a company for a longer period of time, be more engaged and productive and be happier all round.



Working out exactly what you want from an employer is a good place to start. Create a list of things you’ve enjoyed about previous employers and roles, and the things you haven’t. Define what your perfect employer and workplace might look like and then break that down into what is essential to you, what is nice-to-have and what you’re prepared to be flexible on. For example, would your ideal work-life balance include the option of working from home and would a company support that? Online resources such as MyPlan Values Assessment can help you identify what is important to you in an employer and in a job.

Identify what motivates you to succeed at work and at home. Get to know your strengths and weaknesses by thinking about past successes and failures and what contributed to them (our guide to identifying strengths and weaknesses can help here). If you are good at something you are more likely to enjoy it.

Consider your career goals and how you can achieve them. You may want a role that includes ongoing learning opportunities and career advancement, or you might want a role that allows you to concentrate on what you are exceptional at and offers job security. Is there a particular sector or company size that appeals to you more than others, and how does this align to your goals?

Whatever you’re looking for, think about whether it can be achieved at one company. To get where you want to be, you may need to take a role that provides a stepping stone to something better.


Look for companies with values that match your own and then add a generous pinch of salt. Many will talk about the importance of things such as tolerance and inclusivity, but try and find out if they actually live by their values.

Dig deeper into the organization. One part of the business might be highly regarded, while others may not. Individual teams and managers might have very different values to the rest of the organization.

Try and investigate staff turnover. People who are happy at work tend to stay – if a company is experiencing high turnover, find out why and if the company is doing anything to address it.

Don’t be blinded by a good salary and attractive benefits, look for warning signs. For instance, are they paying well because they expect to work you to the bone for a short period, or are they keen to help you develop and grow in the long term?

It’s great to be able to raise and discuss some of your preferences during interview. Knowing why you like a certain environment or rate a particular aspect of work culture highly, shows you know what environment you work best in and aren’t simply looking for any job. When you and an organization are on the same wavelength it’ll stand out to recruiters.


It’s not always easy to get inside information on an organization but these tips are a good place to start:

  • Keep growing your network and connect with people who have worked at your target companies. What sort of people do they employ, how are their careers progressing, what sort of projects do they work on and would they recommend them as employers? But remember what is right for them may not be right for you.
  • Follow companies on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • Look at reviews of employers on sites such as Seek, Glassdoor and Indeed, but remain objective and look at several sources. A bad review by a disgruntled ex-employee may not provide a balanced view.
  • Find out a company’s financial history and what its prospects are. For example, a start-up or high risk business venture may or may not suit you.
  • Where applicable look at customer feedback and assess whether they show the company keeps to its values. Do customers like them?
  • Find out what you can about the company and their leaders online. Look for common themes: do they have a good reputation, are these people you admire, do they have a track record of success?
  • If you can, take a look behind the scenes at the office. Get a feel for the atmosphere: what is the space like and are people interacting with each other?
  • Use your interview to ask questions about the culture (if possible ask to meet a team member rather than just a manager), such as:
  • How will my performance be measured?
  • What is the organizational leadership style?
  • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • What frustrates you about working here?
  • What would you expect me to achieve in the first 90 days?
  • What attributes do you value in your employees?
  • What would you change about the culture here if you could?
  • What new skills will I learn or new challenges will I be exposed to?


Even if you aren’t actively looking for a new job, it’s worth thinking about what you want from an employer now. Find out which companies would be a good fit for you, monitor their job adverts and start talking to connected people in your network. That way you’ll be one step ahead when a role comes up.

If you are pro-actively looking for a new job then apply our tips on how to dig a little bit deeper into a company’s culture before deciding whether they are the right fit for you.

Sometimes needs must – we’ve all got bills to pay – and there is no right or wrong kind of workplace. But if you and the company don’t fit, it will damage your emotional and physical wellbeing. It’s also more likely you’ll be back looking for a different opportunity sooner than you’d hoped.


  1. Know what you want
  2. Invest the time on research
  3. Don’t ignore warning signs
  4. Use the interview to ask questions of your own
  5. Target companies before you need a new job