How to Assess Cultural Fit in an Interview

Congratulations! You landed an interview for a promising position at a San Francisco Bay Area company. The role is well suited to your skills and experience, and the pay is within your desired range. You know you can do the job—the question is, will the organizational culture be a good fit for you? Today we will offer some suggestions on how to gauge a company’s culture and its compatibility with your personality and values.

Step One: Know Yourself

Organizational culture may be defined as the collective outward expression of a company’s core values—principles or qualities that are desirable and have intrinsic worth. Values inform our decisions and guide our behavior. Two individuals (or groups) with different values are likely to act very differently under identical circumstances.

Perhaps you are introspective by nature or have invested energy into personal development. If so, you may be very familiar with your values already. If not, identifying your values—and learning which ones are most important to you—will be extremely helpful to you.

Step Two: Learn the Types of Organizational Cultures has an excellent article on Edward Lawler and his book about human capital centric companies. This is Lawler’s own term for organizations that gain a competitive advantage from their employees. Typically, human capital centric companies are “committed to attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining top-quality talent.” As a result, they are characterized by robust cultures that have been deliberately cultivated over time, and they are often excellent places to work.

Lawler further separates human capital centric companies into two categories: global competitors and high involvement organizations. Global competitors offer high compensation but not job security, whereas high involvement companies invest in their employees’ development and encourage their involvement in decisions. The article breaks down the characteristics of each type in detail.

Step Three: Ask Questions and Watch for Clues

It’s interview time! As your interviewer assesses your character and strengths, maximize this opportunity to observe the culture firsthand. Every aspect of the interview process offers insight. From the interviewer’s treatment of you to the demeanor and energy of other workers in the building, each interaction provides a glimpse into the company values.

The interviewer may also be a resource of information. You might ask what first attracted him or her to the company and whether his or her opinion of the company changed after starting work. offers an excellent list of additional things to watch for and questions to ask, including, “What qualities do the most successful employees in your company possess?”

Menlo Partners Helps Job Seekers Find a Great Fit

At Menlo Partners, we spend face-to-face time with all of our candidates to develop an understanding of their values and motivations. Likewise, we develop deep relationships with Silicon Valley companies so that we are aware not only of their operations but also of their culture and strategy. We look forward to working with you to identify opportunities in which you can grow and thrive.


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