Job Search Success

Are Your Values Aligned with a Potential Employer?

By Lana Johnson on February 5, 2020

Being happy at work is critical to every person’s overall well-being. Not only do we spend a lot of time at work; many of us want a sense of personal fulfillment from our jobs. When you’re interviewing, how can you figure out if a company or team is going to make you happy? Start by determining how well a company’s values fit with your own. 

Step 1 – Define Your Personal Values

Your personal values are the attributes that you believe are important in the way you live and work. Your values drive your behavior and they influence the decisions you make. When you are in a situation that doesn’t align with your core values, you experience tension or discomfort, telling you that something is “not right.”

For instance, one of your core values might be spending quality time with your family every day. If you’re in a job that requires a three hour daily round-trip commute, that impacts your family time which then causes yo u to be anxious or unhappy.

When you invest time to define your values, you’ll be more purposeful in your decision-making. Without a set of personal core values, you’re more likely to find yourself in situations where you’re more reactive to the circumstances around you.

This is a fantastic resource for identifying what’s most important to you. Take time to reflect and capture your most important core values, and you’re on your way to finding a job that aligns.

Align Your Values

Step 2 – Uncover a Company’s Values

The internet and social media make it very easy to start gaining a sense for any given company’s values and norms.

First, what does a company say about themselves on their website? How do they articulate their vision and mission? Does the company try to convey “what it’s like to work here?” Do they share any videos from current employees that talk about their own experiences with the organization?

Next, look for online reviews about the company on Glassdoor, Yelp, Facebook, or Google. Take some of these reviews with a grain of salt, since you never know if a review was written by a disgruntled ex-employee, etc. Still, see if you can find themes among the reviews. You should also pay attention to how often the company responds to their reviews and what they say.

Next, research the company’s presence on social media. Many companies use social media to talk about their products or services. Some use social to recognize their employees or to share milestones or news. It can also be telling if a company does not have a social media presence.

LinkedIn is an especially valuable social media tool for conducting research on company values. Companies can create their own LinkedIn pages to showcase what they do and what it’s like to work there. You can also see who works in a given company and you can see if any of those employees are in your own network.

Speaking of networking, the best insight about a company comes from the people who work there. Reach out to people that you know in a company. Talk to people in your industry who know about the company you’re considering. Use your network to “look under the hood” to get a sense for what it’s really like to work inside an organization.

Step 3 - Ask Probing Questions During Your Interview

Your interview gives you an important chance to ask specific questions. Don’t use a general question such as, “what’s it like to work here?” The more specific your question, the more specific and valuable the answer. Consider the following:  

  • Why are you most proud to work here?
  • How does this company support your development and career growth?
  • Does the company encourage risk taking? What happens if you fail here?
  • How do the company values trickle down throughout the organization?
  • What would you change about the company, if you had the chance?
  • How does the organization celebrate success?
  • How does the company support volunteer activities/events?

Another tip is to use your personal values to create a list of questions you will ask during the interview. You can create a simple table like this one to help you organize your thoughts:

My Top Personal Values

Interview Questions I'll Ask

Interviewer Answer

Answer Strength

1: Poor Alignment
5: Strong Alignment

1. Giving back to my community "How does the company support volunteerism and giving back?" Has a committee focused on giving back, donates 10% of corporate profits to charities 5
2. My own growth & development "Describe the organization's training and development opportunities." Does not have an internal training program but they hope to develop one. 3
3. Ambition = opportunities for promotion "What is the succession plan in this department? How do people get promoted?" The department has a flat structure, not many opportunities for promotion 1
4. Strong teamwork "How do you go about building a strong team in your department?" Lots of team building activities, Gallup engagement surveys 5
5. Recognition "How do you recognize the team's top performers?" Annual company trip, quarterly awards, bonuses 5

In this hypothetical case, there are great things about the company but training and promotion opportunities are important to the job seeker and those appear to be weaker areas. In this case, the job seeker has to prioritize what is most important.

Articulating your personal values helps you make better decisions, which ultimately leads to higher job satisfaction and engagement. Job seekers have more tools and resources than ever for researching the companies they’re considering. Ensuring alignment between personal and company values means you’re more likely to succeed and you’re more likely to love what you do, and that is always a good thing.

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