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How to determine culture fit when searching for a job

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There are 3 points of inquiry (POIs) in any job search that will help you determine whether you will be a success if you take the job. The 3 POIs don’t focus on whether you can do the job. It’s assumed. They focus on whether you fit the culture of the organization that’s offering you the job.


Colloquially, culture is ‘how we do things around here.’ Your mission as a job seeker is to determine the following: ‘Is how I do things ‘simpatico’ with how you do things?’ In other words, am I a ‘values, beliefs and practice’ fit in your organization?


Here are the 3 POIs (with questions) that determine culture fit:

Point of Inquiry 1: Choice. The obvious question for job seekers to ask is: 'How do you make decisions in your organization (or on your team, etc.)?' It’s important to become aware of, understand and buy-into how decisions are made. Decision-making is the ‘heart’ of fit.

Point of Inquiry 2: Change. During the interview process, ask for 3 specific examples of how change has been managed in the organization. For example, 'What happened when you upgraded your network?' 'What happened when you reorganized the call center?' 'What happened when the new COO came on board?'

How was change managed at individual, team and organizational levels? Again, affinity between 'you and them' matters.

Point of Inquiry 3: Control. The direct question to ask to determine who controls what in the organization is the following: Q1) 'How do you get the results you want?' The following indirect question is more important and yields greater clarity: Q2) 'What happens when something goes wrong and you don’t get the results you want?'

The answers to Q2 will help you understand how mistakes are managed in the organization. Specifically, it will point out a culture of ‘blame and shame’ or a culture of ‘growth and learning;' two vastly different control orientations. If the culture has a 'muddled' control orientation (e.g., a 'do as I say and not as I do' culture), you'll see it in the answers to Q2.


Ask yourself the following question before you begin your job search: Where (in what kind of organizational culture) will I thrive? Write your answer down. Let your answer frame your job search and guide you in making a decision about whether to take a job or not.

Choose to quiry. Choose to fit. Choose to thrive.

Organizational communication maven by day. Food, wine and beer buff by night. World traveler. Entrepreneurial spirit. Contact Eroca Gabriel, a former Fortune 100 ‘people and culture’ consultant, at




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