What exactly is a "company culture"?

What exactly is a “company culture”?

Question: What does “company culture” mean?

I just read your response on “Job Seeker or Job Stalker.”

You commented that recruiters, hiring managers, interviewers and anybody else you contact at the new company are watching your job search behaviors and asking questions such as “will you fit into our culture?”

I have always wondered what “fit into our culture” means. What is a company’s culture? It tends to insinuate or have a hidden undertone — or it can be perceived in this manner. Overall, my focus is on the perception, simply because I work with college students. College students today are very diverse and I want students to take advantage of all opportunities.

Advice from Dana:

I am somewhat ambivalent about the “fit into our culture” discussion. Not just because our employees are so diverse and many value a flexible environment, but because there is no ONE culture inside any company. For example, within Microsoft, the cultures varied greatly between functions (engineering/development, marketing, operations, etc.) and varied based on the leadership team in place at the time.

I also believe all employees need to learn flexibility and agility to work in a variety of cultures, as long as the culture is respectful to all diverse styles and meets the company’s value bar, which should be high.

From another perspective, I must say that I’m bored with the common candidate-to-interviewer question, “Can you tell me about the culture here?” It’s a waste of a precious question as the candidate is only going to hear the good things, right? Glassdoor.com serves a good purpose since it’s the “Yelp” of company cultures.

Finally, what does “culture” mean anyway? When I interview, the job skills I look for that tie with “cultural fit” are:

  • Does the candidate respect other people’s time? For example, is he/she on time?
  • Do they smile and seem like they can have a good time while working hard?
  • Are they self-aware, humble?

My obsession for college graduates today, in all fields and all levels (graduate school included), is to focus on “winning” the job in such a competitive environment. Compete to win that job based on your passion, skills, experience, and running a great job search process. “Culture” will be what you make it once you’re hired and as you grow your career.