Finding the right job for you is a two-way interaction with an employer. It can sometimes feel like the dice are loaded in favour of the employer, leaving a job seeker on the backfoot desperately trying to say and do the right thing to land the job. However, with dissatisfaction in the workplace rife, job seekers are becoming more discerning. Research by the Association of Graduate Recruiters shows that one reason for unfilled posts is candidates reneging on offers. Ensuring the employer is a good culture fit is one way of making the right decision for you. What questions can you ask to help you decide?

A personal story

There will be moments in your life when what is important to you becomes crystal clear. For example, I once had two job offers at the same time. How did I decide which one to take? What clues to a good culture fit could I generate from my questions?

The first one was an internal audit role involving fixed hours, mainly office-based and travel only within the local region. The other job was a consultancy role involving varied hours and extensive time away from home. I had three children under 10 years old at the time. The first job was more stable, predictable and safe. The second job was more varied, exciting and riskier. Both paid the same salary.

Following an initial interview and assessment centre, I found myself at a second interview for the consultancy role.culture fit Right at the end, I asked the interview panel what was the best thing about working there and what was the worst. Someone replied, rather too honestly, “I love the stimulating and varied work, but I haven’t always been there to see my children grow up”.

I turned down the consultancy job and took the internal audit role to put my family before career. Or so I thought because the story has a twist in the tale. Within a couple of days in the audit job I knew I had made a mistake. It was not as sold to me and it was going to be dull. This was not a good culture fit. I took a risk and went back to the consultancy to see if they still wanted me. Fortunately, they did!

Use your head, heart, and guts

Both family and career are important to me. My head told me to take the audit job, whereas my heart wanted the consultancy job. My guts told me to change my mind and take the consultancy job. Then I used my head to make it work with my family and employer through compromise and negotiation, and I spent the next 11 years as a people and organisational development consultant. Testing my personal values helped to guide my decision-making and ensure a better cultural fit.

Culture fit and your values

Your personal values guide your behaviour, like a moral compass. They are what’s really important to you and thatculture fit you feel strongly about. They help you to decide whether to go in one direction or another, to make difficult choices and to manage competing interests. Values are part of your personal identity, along with your inclinations and temperament. They often feel instinctive. Also, personal values tend to be stable over time but can change priority at different stages of your life.

Job and career navigating

Knowing your core values helps predict how you will respond in certain situations, such as in a job interview or within a company or particular work culture. It helps you decide whether this is the kind of employer and work environment that matches what is genuinely important to you and enable you to be at your best.

Turn the tables

What response do my coaching clients and workshop participants get when they ask the questions on the best and worst things about working here? They say it throws interviewers off balance. Interviewers tend to expect factual questions seeking information or clarification. This can result in an off-guarded response giving you a more revealing picture. It also leaves a good impression, showing your initiative and assertiveness, as most interviewers have never been asked that before by candidates. Here are 50 more brilliant questions to choose from! And you can always search Glassdoor for insider views of the culture as part of your research. Here are their 7 questions about culture fit.

Try some and let me know what happens!