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Contributed by Eric Goldschein, Editor at Fundera. Updated 8/11/2021.

The number one reason we work where we work is because our jobs give us the salary and benefits we need to live. The second reason? According to Planted's 2019 Talent Trends Report, it’s company culture. The best way for companies to differentiate themselves is by offering cultures that promise positivity, transparency, and opportunities for growth.

As a job seeker, how can you tell whether a company walks the walk or is just talking the talk? What should be on your company culture checklist to ensure you’re not wasting your time somewhere you won’t be a fit? Here are seven ways to tell that a company’s culture is right for you.

1. They have a robust, on-brand Careers page.

One of your first stops when doing research on a potential new employer should be their official website, specifically their Careers page or portal. This page should paint a picture of what working at that company is like, addressing a few key points:

  • The story of the company : What is this business? What do they sell or provide? When did they start? What is their mission statement? This important information should be front and center — if a business can’t explain what they do, how can you be excited about that opportunity?
  • Where you would fit : What sort of people is this company looking to hire? What skills or qualifications might you need, regardless of the role you’re applying to? You should be able to get a sense of whether their culture is a potential fit for you based on this information alone.
  • Testimonials and third-party affirmations : What do the people who work at this company say about it? What do legitimate third parties — review sites, news organizations, etc. — think? Validation from outlets like Deloitte or Forbes means this company is vetted and that employees are proud of what people say about them.

2. Their social media team connects with you on a personal level.

Social media channels are now used just as much for talent acquisition and sales as they are for marketing and branding, and using social media for recruiting has become more common over the last few years. If a company reaches out to you via LinkedIn or Facebook, their page should be branded and professional. In 2019, there’s no excuse for a social media channel that’s outdated, out of touch, or disconnected from the rest of the company.

Where a company’s culture shines through, though, is how they use their social media to connect with users personally. If you see a company using their social media channels to respond to customers, contribute to trending topics, poll users, and post fun and engaging content, that’s a great sign.

3. Review sites vouch for them.

Company culture used to be opaque from the outside looking in — you’d have to wait until you entered a company’s office for the first time to know what their culture was really like. That has all changed thanks to sites like Glassdoor and Blind, which offer tons of insight into what a company pays, how they treat their employees, and how they compare to other businesses in their industry.

When browsing review sites, expect (and forgive) the occasional poor review; not every employee will have the experience they want, even at the best companies. But keep an eye out for whether or not businesses take the time to respond to or address complaints made in negative reviews. Unsurprisingly, “62% of job seekers say their perception of a company improves after seeing an employer respond to a review,” according to Glassdoor, which makes sense — a company that owns their mistakes and pledges to improve is better than one that feels immune to criticism.

4. They offer the perks people expect — and some they don’t.

In this competitive market, it’s harder and harder to justify working for a company that doesn’t offer basic benefits like healthcare and dental insurance. That’s why it may no longer be enough to offer these benefits: businesses are stepping up their fringe benefits in ways large and small. There’s the infamous “unlimited snacks,” of course, but other benefits show employees that their company cares about long-term growth and development: learning stipends that employees can use to improve their skills; or visits from speakers, CEOs, and other business leaders.

If a business doesn’t offer these benefits, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have a bad company culture. But a long list of varied benefits can tell you a company cares a lot about their employees.

5. They conduct amazing interviews and care about the applicant experience.

When companies open their doors for an interview or conduct phone screens, they’re offering you a look into the inner workings of their business. Good companies treat prospective employees the same way they treat prospective customers: with courtesy and respect. When conducting interviews, recruiters should honor your time, allow questions, and provide a clear timeline for when you might hear back.

When visiting the office for an interview, take note of how you’re treated by your interviewers as well as by the employees who work there. At a company with a great culture, employees are likely to greet you warmly, ensure you’re taken care of, and tell you all about how great it is to work there.

6. They don’t try to be everything to everybody.

A company with a great culture isn’t necessarily the company with the right culture for you. Not every company culture is going to be a fit, and some companies are desperate enough for talent that they might be more interested in hiring you to meet their needs regardless of your expectations.

Companies need to be true to their values in order to build a sustainable culture; those values may include transparency and flexibility, but not things like remote work or unlimited vacation. If an interviewer says things like “we’ll see about that,” or “for you, we can make an exception,” it might be a red flag — companies that overpromise perks in exchange for your commitment are likely to underdeliver.

7. You can view the career journeys of current and former employees.

Using LinkedIn, a company’s Career page, and your interviews, try to find people who have worked at the company you’re curious about for some time and/or work on the team you’re planning to join and then trace their career journey. Where were they before this company? How have they grown since they joined? A company that promotes from within, honors loyalty, allows employees to switch jobs to better serve the team and themselves, and even sends people on to new opportunities with support and passion is likely to be an excellent place to work.

Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to learn as much as you can about a company’s culture before you make a commitment. Leverage your interview process and all of the resources available to you — from review sites to social media — to learn everything you can about prospective new employers, and what you can’t find out yourself, ask!

This is a great time to job search: the power is increasingly in the hands of applicants rather than employers, so you should use that power to find the best cultural fit for you, wherever that may be. Wherever you're at in your job search — be that browsing new openings or diving into interviews, we'll be here with the tips & resources you need. If you're ready to be first-in-line for some of the top startup jobs available right now, make sure to sign into your Planted dashboard or sign up now.