What Does it Mean to Be a "Cultural Fit" at a Company?

What Does it Mean to be a If you're currently looking for a job or are about to go on the market, you've likely heard a lot about what employers are looking for in prospective hires. One factor that's becoming more prominent with hiring managers is whether an applicant is a good cultural fit for their company. The idea of "cultural fit" as a criteria for determining how well-suited an applicant is to not only a specific position, but to the company in general, is gaining traction especially among younger companies and those with strongly defined corporate cultures.

What exactly does it mean to be a cultural fit for a company, though? A company's culture is typically (and loosely) defined by their values, the tone and structure of their workplace, stated management styles, and both individual employee and collective group behaviors. While an applicant's skills, experience, resume, and references are still important, employers also want to ensure all new hires will fit in well with the rest of the company culture. Hiring an employee who turns out to clash with coworkers and the management team's operational philosophy can end up putting a company right back at square one within a matter of months.

How to Know if a Company is a Good Cultural Fit for You

Keep in mind that while a company may evaluate you during an interview to see if you are a good cultural fit, it's also in your best interest to find a job at a company that's a good cultural fit for you. Even a position that seems great on paper could turn out to be a bad choice several weeks or months in if you don't make sure the company matches with your professional goals and personality before accepting an offer.

  • Do they exhibit strong and appealing values? More than just asking what main values the company tries to embody, find out if there are any specific ways they put these values into action. Things like professional or non-profit partnerships, philanthropy initiatives, and community outreach activities can help you tell whether a company shares some of the same values you find most important.
  • Does the workplace environment make you excited about going to work there every day? Is the physical space of the office welcoming and vibrant, or drab and dreary? Be sure to also pay attention to anyone the hiring manager(s) may introduce you to as you walk through the office—do they seem like people who are satisfied with their jobs and who you would feel good about having as coworkers?
  • Does management offer the right kind of support and direction? There are many different management styles and a variety of ways for a company to operate internally—you want to make sure they have an organizational structure that helps bring out the best in you professionally.
  • Does the company encourage the right level of interaction with coworkers? If you know you work best individually while taking direct feedback from a single supervisor, then a company that does everything in collaborative teams may not be the best fit for you. On the other hand, if you like a lot of interaction and cooperation throughout the day, you may want to give higher preference to a company with a more modular, team-based structure.
  • What is the overall tone of the interview? Based on your interactions with the hiring manager(s) and other employees during the interview, do you think you would fit in well personally? Depending on your own personality and the kind of workplace you're most interested in being a part of, pay attention to whether people are relaxed and fairly casual, stressed and high-strung, or very traditionally professional and "all business." You may even take note of the dress code and any policies regarding flexibility in hours or remote work if these factors are important to you.

Even if you think you’re landing the opportunity of a lifetime, it may not be very enjoyable if you and the company are not a cultural fit. Keep that in mind as you search for jobs and go through the interview process. In addition to helping you be prepared for any interviews that may be coming your way, a better understanding of what makes someone a good cultural fit for a company can be an important long-term career skill.

Looking for other ways to make yourself a more marketable job applicant? Learn about additional important career skills to develop.