What Does "Culture Fit" Even Mean?
“Applying for jobs is fun!” said no one ever – not only do you have to tick all, if not most of, the requirements for the role, but you also have to think about if the ever-elusive “culture fit”. Culture fit can be hard to define, but at its core, it’s the question of whether your beliefs and behavior is in alignment with your employer’s core values. When every company’s definition of culture fit is very different, how do you know if you fit it, and does it even matter if you don’t fit it completely?
Certain companies make it easier for you to gauge what this is by making you take a culture fit quiz before they even call you in for an interview. As with most job quizzes, however, applicants don’t answer honestly in favor of going with the answer we think will paint us in the best light. Recruiting is long and expensive, so any way to make the process easier is understandable. That being said, a culture fit test surely can’t be as effective as simply talking to the applicant in question, so at least you can better judge sincerity.
Job descriptions can often be a good indicator of company culture, from the way companies write the descriptions, to the benefits and perks they feel are important to list. If you see a job title like “Customer Delighter” or “Happiness Maker” and by some miracle those titles don’t make you cringe on the spot, then maybe the company is the right one for you (whereas for others, it may simply feel disingenuous). Calling what is essentially a Customer Service Assistant anything else can feel like overkill, or the product of an HR brainstorming session gone wrong. For some companies, culture can simply mean having a ping pong table and a fridge stocked with craft beer.
Even if that’s sufficient justification to apply for a job from the outset, keep in mind that those perks will lose their appeal quickly if management is toxic or the company lacks culture and camaraderie beyond discussing the latest IPA.
As for startup companies, don’t feed into its perceived culture; that can change daily (or hourly, depending on when your manager last had a cup of coffee). Startup culture rarely ever stays the same as what it was like at the beginning. In many cases, they’re at a stage where they’re throwing things at a wall to see what sticks. If you struggle with a lack of structure, then maybe a startup is not for you (keeping in mind that even more established companies could lack similar structure and organization). It’s ultimately up to you to decide what you can put up with, or what you dee a deal breaker.
Looking for a match in culture fit definitely comes from a place of privilege – sometimes you may not agree with a company’s values or policies, but you need money to pay for bills and other fun expenses that come with adulthood. Either way, it’s likely for the best that you agree with the way a company functions, share similar missions, and management runs in a way that reflects your values (on a good day, anyway). There’s no real way to see if you’ll completely fit any company’s culture until you’re in the thick of it. It’s not a bad thing to be the person or one of a few people that questions the status quo and shakes things up. That’s usually when the best ideas come to life.
If you’re not sure that you’re a culture fit but the job sounds interesting, then apply anyway. Who knows? You might be the spark that brings about a better culture and a new shift, no matter the definition.