The Right Workplace: How to Find a Company Culture that Fits You

Good morning, Highlanders! Another Career Thursdays blog here! I like when articles relate the job search process to something very familiar like trying on clothes or dating. It puts everything in perspective when the job search gets tough. Sometimes job descriptions will fabricate exactly what the job is and then when you start, it’s not what you thought it was going to be. Feeling duped is not the way you want to feel when you start that glamorous new job. This is a quick and short article about looking deep within yourself to figure out what job is truly the right fit. This was originally posted on the Career Contessa blog by Angela R. Howard, M.A. on August 31, 2016. 

*Side note, the UCR Alumni Association offers FREE career webinars! The Fall Webinar Series begins on Wednesday, October 5 at 5 p.m. PST. Click here to sign up or learn more about the series. 

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This past weekend I found myself browsing my favorite boutique only to fall in love with a stunning dress. Of course, I talked myself into trying it on. If you’re anything like me, you get in the dressing room and shimmy into that perfect outfit…just to find that the sleeves are too long or the dress is too tight. And oh yeah—that price tag? It’s way more expensive than you expected.

Finding the right job fit or strategizing your next career move can be eerily similar to a regular shopping experience—it too is all about fit. Here are four strategies and guiding questions you can use to ensure that you’re looking beyond the job description to find something that works for you:

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Expanding on this fashion metaphor: any job description is similar to seeing that dress, watch or blazer in a store window.  Reading through one gets us excited about the type of work we will be doing. We think: I love how this sounds. But we need to know more:
  • What about the job description or organization is speaking to your individual purpose and career path? Will it hinder or optimize it? *If you’re not sure what your purpose is or what you want your career path to be, you are absolutely going to want to do some soul searching. What is it about these jobs that gets your attention and makes you excited? What is it about your current job that gets you excited? Do these job descriptions have these qualities? 
  • Think about the simple stuff like location and the job’s ability to fit in your natural flow of the workday. Will your routine suffer? *Does this job opportunity lengthen your commute? Will you be closer to home and will it greatly enhance your quality of life? Is this something that’s really important to you? 


We all know we need to work. But if you land an interview, think outside your automatic motivation to get the job. Open your senses to cultural cues that will help you gain insight into what your realistic day-to-day experience may look and feel like:
  • Observe the physical space of the location. Are there offices? Open cubes? How happy (or miserable) do the current employees look? How are people dressed? All of these observations will begin to paint a picture of formal and informal policies and values that the organization holds dear. *Ask the people who are interviewing you what the office culture is like and why each of them likes their job. When the interviewer asks you if you have any questions, this is always my go-to.  I like to ask this especially when people have been working at the company for a long period of time. There’s something special that’s holding them to stay at one employer and if you can find out what that is, you’ll soon learn whether or not you’d like to work for that organization.
  • Remember, it’s a two-way street. If you get the opportunity to interview or speak to the manager who will oversee the position you are looking to land, take advantage! People leave managers, not organizations, so use this time to ask about their philosophy around leadership and how best to work with them in this role. If anything comes across as off-putting or insincere, that’s a red flag. *As crazy as it sounds, when you’re going through an interview process, you are interviewing the employer just as much as they are interviewing you. You have to think about it factually, that you are going to be spending more time with these people than you are going to be at home. Do they seem like people you want to hang out with for 40+ hours per week? If the answer is “yes”, then you know it’s a good fit. If you’re unsure, take some time to think about it.
  • Test that “inner voice” when you walk out of the interview. Do you feel accomplished and excited or de-motivated? *If you’re at an interview and all you want to do is run out the door because you’re not excited about the opportunity, it may be time to reconsider and not accept the job if they offer it to you. You probably want to see excitement in the eyes of the people who are interviewing you as well.


It’s second-nature for us to attempt to match our career desires with the job description because we’ve been taught that gives us a better chance at landing the job. Although this still rings true, take some time to really think through these common interview questions, so you are matching up assumptions about the job to your own version of career success. Don’t just tell them what you think they want to hear. Try these:
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? *Stick with career related goals when you answer this question. You don’t want to say something like, “Traveling the world.” or “Married with 2 kids.” because those will make you sound unprofessional. Think about this question for a while and really try to understand where you’d like to be. I think the real answer to this question is, “Who knows where they want to be in 5 years? This is silly.” but of course, you wouldn’t say that within an interview. Be honest with the company and think about if 5 years from now was tomorrow, based on what I know today, what would I be doing that relates to this job that I’m interviewing for?
  • What about this role/organization interests you? *Have a very concrete example here of something from the job description or company website that really excites you and makes you want to learn more about this position. The key to answering this question is to do your research. 


Would you a buy that dress, shoes or blazer if it didn’t fit?  There is no rulebook ever written that says you must take a job if you’re offered it. Don’t be afraid to turn down an offer if it’s not the right fit or doesn’t align with your career journey. *This is easier if you are currently employed. If you are unemployed, this can be very difficult. This is where digging deeper and understanding what’s in your heart can lead you down the path that will make you the happiest. 


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