Company Culture: How to Determine if it's Fact or Fiction

‘What is your company culture?’  It is the question every job candidate asks and not every company is prepared to answer.  If you are a job candidate the question is important and you must listen carefully to the response. If the company doesn’t provide solid evidence they have a culture or it appears to be just lip service – run. If you need the job, take it and either work to change the culture or keep looking. To help figure out where a company values lie when it comes to culture, here’s a couple questions to ask yourself:

Are all the answers the same? Ask several employees at all levels that you are interviewing with to describe their culture; the answers must be the same. This is the obvious sign the company is serious about their place of work and employees.  It also means that the company has dedicated time and effort into defining their culture. Bravo! Proceed to the next step. If the answers are inconsistent – smile, shake the hand, and give thanks and go.

Is the culture answer truthful? My personal pet peeve is the ‘we want to have fun’ culture answer. Not a truthful answer. If a company says, “we want to successfully execute against our plan and make money which can lead to good times” that’s fine but fun for fun sake doesn’t have place in business. Make sure the culture definition aligns with the business model and plan. If the company wants a culture that cares about customers, stakeholders, employees, partners and even vendors – you are interviewing with a company that gets it, one that understands the value of culture.

The good news – more companies realize the necessity of a great culture to recruit, nurture and retain great talent. Work to join the companies that get it.

Here’s a sample of three companies in my backyard (Austin) that I think have created great cultures:

Whole Foods



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