When someone asks you to talk about the company culture you are most comfortable with, you better make sure you have put some thought into this answer before the actual interview.
Better yet, you should know the answer to this question before you even start applying for jobs.
Pretty much the point of an interview, right?
But, ”What kind of company culture do you thrive in?” is the kind of question that is also asking, “What do you need from us to be a productive employee?”
That’s another important question to ask yourself.
The company, of course, wants you to be productive (and we’ll assume you want to be productive, too).
Imagine all the time you would save applying to jobs if you could eliminate 50% of them just based on the company culture.
By spending some time upfront, you will not only save time applying.
But you will be very confident in an interview when asked what kind of company culture are you most comfortable with.
Innovative vs. Structured Company Culture
When determining a company culture that would be a good fit, there are two main categories to think about.
Many startups are known for the type of culture that they provide.
Google was the first company to really take this seriously and since Google, everyone else has tried to copy them.
If you go to Mountain View, CA and check out the Google facility, you are going to see just about everything.
From bicycles, massage stations, restaurants, and work pods, to outdoor offices, gyms, and hangout areas, Google has it all.
Google has pioneered the idea of an ideal company culture.
They take care of their employees and provide them with the freedom to be creative and happy.
In return, Google employees produce the highest quality of work.
That is their approach, and it works for them.
However, some people prefer a more calm, structured company culture.
Many organizations that have been around for a very long time could be considered extremely structured.
UPS is a good example.
There is a strict hierarchy at UPS.
Seniority will always outweigh productivity.
One big positive is that job stability at these types of organizations is extremely high compared to a start-up company.
Structured organizations have a set way of doing things and a proven method that works, so why change it?
Change is very hard to come by in these types of organizations.
Tradition and structure are put first.
As an employee, you are really not incentivized or inspired to think outside the box of your job description.
How to Choose the Best Fit For You
So how do you choose what type of company culture works for you?
There are a few questions that you should ask yourself to see which type of company culture you would fit in best with.
- Do you enjoy frequent change?
- Would you consider yourself a creative worker?
- Do you enjoy interacting with people?
- Would you like your work to be a “fun” place or do you prefer your fun to be outside of work?
- Do you believe productivity should outweigh seniority?
If your answer is “YES” to most of those questions, then you would probably enjoy working at a company with a startup-y culture.
Just to clarify, Google is far from being a startup.
They simply offer this amazing culture that all the top startups are copying.
You do not need to be a startup company in order to have this kind of culture.
There are plenty of large organizations that offer this sort of company culture.
While these are the main things to ask yourself, there are other characteristics to consider.
Other Company Culture Characteristics
Above we covered the two main categories of company culture.
A big thing you want to consider is whether you need the space to express your creativity or if you feel more comfortable being a cog in a much larger machine.
There are, however, several other characteristics to take into account.
But how do you ask a company what their culture is like?
That’s kind of a broad question.
To make it easier on you and the employer or hiring manager, ask smaller questions.
Do this, and chances are you’ll get a more detailed response from the employer other than, “It’s good,” or, “Well, I like it.”
Here are some company characteristics that contribute to the bigger picture of the company culture:
- How often employees volunteer
- Whether the company celebrates employee birthdays
- Whether the hours are demanding or not
- How much flexibility do the work schedules have
- How the company celebrates big accomplishments
- How the company encourages productivity
- Whether or not the company encourages teamwork
- Whether or not the company encourages a social aspect among employees
- What the company provides for the employees (in the workplace)
- Work dress code
- Opportunities to grow within the company
Remember, it’s not just important that the company accepts you.
It’s crucial you also accept the company.
Like any other relationship, both of you should at the very least get along.
If you are reading this article, however, chances are you want to find the best fit possible!
Stick to Your Guns
It is important that when you are evaluating a company to apply for, you do some research to determine what kind of company culture is offered.
Find out at least whether they offer more of an innovative environment or if they are more structured.
At the end of the day, stick with your preference and be honest about the type of company culture you would enjoy the most.
If you love doing volunteer work but the work hours are too demanding and the company is involved in no volunteer work whatsoever, it would be wise to admit this isn’t the ideal employee/employer fit.
The last thing you want to do is get stuck at an organization that you really are not going to enjoy one year down the road.
Sample Interview Answer
By mentioning previous jobs, you can strengthen your answer to make it clear you know what type of culture you enjoy working in.
Interviewer: What kind of company culture do you work best in?
Candidate: My last job was a real eye-opener when it came to company culture. Prior to working at LinkedIn, I had only worked in cubicle offices with no team meetings, no company volunteer days, no diversity, etc.
Working at LinkedIn has shown me exactly the type of company culture I am comfortable with. That is, one that is united as a whole, filled with individuals who are passionately serving one mission. Every day I was excited to go into work and contribute to an amazing team at an amazing company.
Need Some Help?
Do you need some extra help in preparing for an interview?
Check out 50 Top Job Interview Questions and Answers for more interview questions to practice.
Need some extra help in any aspect of your job search?
Let our career professionals give you the help you need to land your dream job.