Skip to main content

To find out how prospective employees can uncover whether they’ll fit in culturally to the company they’re most eager to join, Brad Zehner, associate professor of Management at St. Edward’s University, offers five suggestions to go beyond the website marketing and recruiting promises.

Know your own values.

Companies may offer up polished and persuasive mission statements and powerful corporate social responsibility projects. But unless those values line up with your own, you won’t be happy, says Brad Zehner. “I always suggest that people make a list of their own core values,” he says. “With that starting point, they can work to learn if the companies they want to work for are aligned with them.”

Get help from professional societies.

This is an ideal place to get in inside scoop from others. “The people in these organizations will build relationships with you — and when they know of a great job opening, they’ll probably think of you,” he says. “These societies are also a great way to get an informal read on a company, which is often the best way to get honest information.”

Tap into your alumni network.

Find alumni from your alma mater who currently work — or, better yet, have worked in the recent past — for the company you’re interested in. “When you’re talking to people who have actually worked in the company, you can find out how they’re treated, and if the company’s mission lines up with the day-to-day reality,” says Zehner.

Understand where your values and the real world conflict.

As a professor, Zehner loves students’ idealism and their desire to work at community-changing nonprofits. But he encourages them to understand that pragmatic concerns may make their choices untenable for the long term. “Working as a director at a nonprofit is great, but an entry level job might pay just $30,000,” he says. “If you’re the primary breadwinner, and you’ve got kids to feed, how will you do that? I try to bring those issues to the surface early on. I want to make sure students make decisions with their eyes open.”

Trust your gut.

Sometimes, you can get all the information you need just from the way you’re treated in an interview. If your interviewer keeps you waiting for ages, is disorganized, or can’t answer your questions, it can be a sign that there are bigger problems lurking underneath. Interviews are the place for both companies and prospective employees to put their best foot forward, says Zehner. “If a company treats you disrespectfully in the honeymoon stage, how will they treat you — and others — afterward?”

The MBA program at St. Edward’s University builds highly sought-after skills in entrepreneurial thinking, social enterprise, innovation, global collaboration and business analytics — the areas business leaders need in today’s business world.

Erin Peterson is a freelance writer.

Read more articles like this from St. Edward's University.