Use Job Posts to Unlock Company Culture Secrets

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A few years ago while scrolling through job boards looking for a Product Manager gig, I found a posting that, in among the typical PM requirements, explicitly listed the requirement that the PM be available around the clock during the week of a product release. This set off a few warning bells in my head about what it could be like to work at that company.


A job description is not just the hiring manager’s list of the desired skills and education of a candidate. It is also a window into the culture of a company. Ideally, you would have an informational interview or casual coffee with someone who works at the company of interest, but sometimes this is not possible. Job boards like LinkedIn, Idealist, AfterCollege, and CareerBuilder have thousands of listings available on-demand around the clock. Use these listings as a resource as you try to find the right place for you.


Sometimes the hints about company culture buried in a job posting are obvious and explicit, but sometimes you need to read between the lines. Take, for example, the list of desired qualities for a position at Yelp:

– Ambitious (you never settle for mediocrity)

– Ability to receive and implement feedback immediately

– Strong belief in proactive rather than reactive approach to handling clients and problems

– Solid ability to handle tough conversations with business owners in a professional, solution-oriented manner

– Ability to multitask, adapt and manage over 700 clients

– Excellent time management and organizational skills with the ability to track numerous details


Did you spot the culture hints in among the requirements that you be well-organized and good with people?

– “ambitious”, “proactive rather than reactive”: This is a company culture where you need to be independent, confident, and a self-starter. Looking for instructions from your boss at every step? Shy about making suggestions and speaking up? This might not be the role or company for you.

– “ability to receive and implement feedback immediately”: You will get feedback, and you need to be able to implement it. Be confident enough to grab the reins but humble enough to accept feedback graciously. This is a company that values feedback, incremental change, and personal growth.


In order to make a decision about a company based on a job posting, you need to know yourself. What are your skills? What are your non-negotiables? What kinds of environments do you work best in?


To use myself as an example, I decided not to apply to the product manager position based on what I already knew about myself and what I learned about the company from the posting:


  1. The 24/7 requirement indicated a work environment that I know isn’t the right fit for me. In the case of an emergency, I am ready to be all-hands-on-deck. But is a product release an emergency every single time? It made me wonder – is this a company that prefers to fight fires rather than proactively solve problems?
  2. The same requirement also contradicted two of my non-negotiables: going to the gym and being able to eat dinner with my partner. It made me wonder – is the week of a new release really the only time that this company tips the scales toward “work” in work-life balance?


Ultimately it didn’t matter if my skills and experience were the best fit for the job, because the company wasn’t the right fit for me.


I challenge you to go forward and read job descriptions with a more critical eye. Don’t just send off a resume and cover letter for every new posting with the word “sales” in the title. Find the culture clues and use them to assess fit.


What’s the best/worst/scariest/weirdest job requirement you’ve ever seen in a posting? Tweet us @teamfundamentum.


Written by Meg Glasser


Fundamentum coaches you to take control of your career and find your fit. With our expert help, you receive the personal attention you need to change your career trajectory. Through our flexible program, you’ll meet with your coach over the phone in small-group WebClasses or one-on-one coaching sessions to build critical job search skills and start getting results.


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Posted by Team Fundamentum