2 Keys to Choosing the Right Company to Work For


You spend about a third of your life working, according to reference.com.

Considering we spend a third of our life sleeping, that means we spend as much time at work as we do with our family, friends, pets, and hobbies. 

Where you work matters. It matters for your career success, and it matters for your overall quality of life.

So choosing the right company to work for is crucial to your future success. Yes, you can always leave a company if it doesn’t work out, but it’s far better to save yourself the time and energy you’ll spend investing in a job that’s not a good fit.

Take the time to think through what makes a good company before you start a job. Here’s how.

Choosing the Right Company to Work For

There are a lot of different factors to consider when evaluating a job that fits your personality, goals, and ethics, so I’m not going to list every tiny detail. Instead, I’m going to share two high-level factors you should ALWAYS consider when choosing a job.

  1. Company Culture
  2. Your Boss

You’ll never have the perfect work situation. There will always be that one coworker or a too-long commute or challenging customers, but if you align with the company culture and have an excellent boss, you’ll be in a better situation than most.

Find Out About the Company’s Culture

One of the most important jobs of management is to make the organization a decent, enjoyable, productive, and creative place to work – in other words, to foster and nurture a positive corporate culture.

If your most important work values aren’t shared by a company you’re considering, think twice before signing on. 

This issue is so important that you shouldn’t rely on the accuracy of what the hiring executive or recruiter tells you. You need to speak to your own business contacts, present and past employees, and company vendors and customers.

Don’t be nervous about vetting the company with outside sources. They will certainly be vetting you in any way they can (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.).

If your most important work values aren’t shared by a company you’re considering, think twice before signing on.  2 Keys to Choosing the Right Company to Work For Share on X

Good Questions to Ask About Company Culture

It can be hard to determine a company’s culture from the outside, but as you’re researching the company with your contacts (or glassdoor.com), here are some good questions to ask about a company’s culture.

  1. Does leadership’s description of the company line up with the employees’ description?
  2. Are employees valued?
  3. What is the office or remote setup?
  4. Do employees enjoy working there?
  5. Is creativity and individuality allowed?
  6. Do they value professional development?
  7. Does the work have value?

1. Does leadership’s description of the company line up with the employees’ description?

How do the company’s leaders describe the company’s culture (in recruiting materials or the annual report, for example)? How does this compare with the way rank-and-file employees, former employees, competitors, customers, and suppliers describe the culture? (A major difference here may forecast trouble.)

2. Are employees valued?

Are employees treated like partners, with respect for their individuality, creativity, and personal needs? Or are they treated like interchangeable parts, “troublemakers,” or wayward children?

3. What is the office or remote setup?

What kinds of working spaces do most employees occupy? How significant is the gap between the accommodations of the top executives and those of lower-level employees? How well are shared spaces (meeting rooms, lounges, cafeteria) maintained and supplied?

How flexible are they on remote work? Do they provide hardward and IT support if you are working remotely? Do they use Slack or other communication platforms?

4. Do employees enjoy working there?

What is the mood of the offices like? Does a visitor notice joking, laughing, music, conversation? Or is the atmosphere tense and hostile?

5. Is creativity and individuality allowed?

How do the employees dress? How do they decorate their offices, desks, cubicles, and other working areas? Is there an atmosphere of personal expression or one of regimentation and corporate control?

6. Do they value professional development?

How does the company help employees develop professionally? What investments are made in training and education? How are mistakes viewed?

7. Does the work have value?

How do employees at various levels describe their work and the company’s mission? For example, do most employees regard their work as “just a job?” Do they view themselves as “changing the world?” Or is the prevailing attitude something in between or altogether different?

Compare the company’s self-image with its outside reputation. (The latter is often more accurate.) This will help you better understand the true culture of the company.

These questions aren’t meant to assign a moral value to a particular type of company, but more to help you gauge what kind of culture best fits you. Both you and the company benefit if the cultural fit works and your values are aligned.

Once you’re confident the company culture is congruent with your own values, it’s time to consider the next big piece of choosing the right company to work for – your boss.

Choose a Boss Not a Job

Talking to a group of graduating MBA students going for their first job, I advised them that it’s important to seek out a good boss, not just a good job. 

A good boss will not just make your work life enjoyable, but will also help you grow your career, model the kind of leadership skills you should develop, and create an environment where you can flourish.

A bad boss will make your life a living…well, I don’t need to elaborate, do I? 

So my (very smart) students asked me, “What makes a good boss?”

Here are the marks of a good boss. 

A good boss…

  • Tells you what he wants and doesn’t want in terms of work behavior; is clear and concise with no ambiguity
  • Does not judge or criticize your character or motive, only behavior
  • Gives “atta boy” pats on the back (literally and figuratively) when you do a job well
  • Curbs your behavior when you don’t do a job well by going back over as many times as necessary, “this is what I want, and this is what I don’t want”
  • Lets you make mistakes
  • Lets you correct the mistakes without reprisal so you can learn from the experience
  • Is as focused on you doing well as on doing well himself
  • Is consistent in his behavior with everyone
  • Doesn’t lie, steal, or cheat

Of course, knowing what a good boss is doesn’t necessarily help you find out if a potential boss will be good. 

So how do you find out if your potential boss will be a good one? 


Ask others about the boss if possible, but also have the courage to question the potential boss yourself with these questions.

  • How do you manage people?
  • What do you do if a subordinate is exceptionally good?
  • What happens when a subordinate makes a mistake?
  • What do you pride yourself in being especially good at?

You have to ask conversationally to not make the person uncomfortable. But if you don’t ask, you won’t know until it’s too late. 

I’d rather raise issues now and see their reaction. They will either be intrigued by your questions, and therefore you, or they will be intimidated. 

Either way, you gather the information that you need to know so you can decide if you want to work with that person.

Do Your Due Diligence, but Be Prepared for Surprises

Choosing the right company to work for is more art than science. Even with all the effort you put into learning about a company’s culture and leadership, the reality is that you can’t guarantee a new job will be the right one for you until you’ve been in it. 

You just can’t know everything that will happen once you take a job. 

But you can do your due diligence so that when you cross your fingers and hope for the best, it’s an informed hope rather than a reckless dash into the unknown. 

If you are looking to advance your career, consider coaching to help you achieve your goals. One of my clients stated, ““From Debra’s nuanced advice I figure it’s added $400,000 to my income over the last four or five years.” Contact me today to discuss coaching, or if you have a group of emerging leaders, for a speaking engagement.

1 thought on “2 Keys to Choosing the Right Company to Work For”

  1. Debra,

    The blog is insightful as always.

    I have often found the true style of a boss is how they deal with surprises. Exploring this with potential new coworkers can pay dividends. The old adage “I don’t like surprises” is a tell-tale sign.



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