CIO has covered almost every aspect of the job-search process from acing the technical interview to getting past applicant tracking systems to networking your way into your next job, but how do you figure out if a company\u2019s culture is the right fit before you accept a job offer? We asked recruiters, CIOs and career coaches to share advice to help you decide for yourself if an organization is one you\u2019ll flourish in or one you should pass on.\nThe right fit\nCompany culture is a funny thing. It could be the engine that drives your passion or it could be the thing that crushes your spirit and keeps you up at night. Figuring out if it\u2019s one of these extremes or somewhere in between before you take the job is a tough task, but one worth undertaking. Choosing an organization without considering how you fit into their culture is a formula for disaster.\n\u201cIt is important for someone to learn about an organization\u2019s culture prior to accepting a position. Culture is a large variable that influences overall employee engagement and the longevity that individuals stay with an organization. If it is not the right culture fit, someone is unlikely to be contributing their best and their tenure will likely be short,\u201d says Kristin Darby, CIO at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.\nWhat corporate culture is and what it shouldn\u2019t be\n\u201cOrganizations define culture differently, and often, incorrectly. Culture should be comprised of a shared vision, defined understanding of the best fit traits of successful employees and core values that unite a company to think and work as a team with a well understood method of the best way to achieve their shared goal. Too often though companies define their culture more by their perks offered or by what I term \u2018the frat\u2019 mentality \u2013 meaning if you look, act and have the same interests as the team,\u201d says Ed Nathanson, founder of Red Pill Talent, LLC.\nStart your investigation early\nExperts agree that job seekers should be thinking about culture fit before they even apply for a job. \u201cToo many candidates allow the company to be the one driving the interview process. In reality, the candidate should be interviewing the company as well. After all, the whole point is that you are entering into a mutually beneficial relationship,\u201d says Stephen Van Vreede, personal brand strategist and job search agent for IT, Technical and STEM careers with\u00a0ITTechExec\u00a0.\nKnow what\u2019s important to you\nThis is an essential part of the process, because if you don\u2019t know what\u2019s important to you than it will be next to impossible to decide where you fit in. Knowing what best motivates and inspires you will go a long way to making a solid choice. Some people can focus right in on this, others have to think and work at it.\nUse social media\nNathanson offers some these guidelines about using social media to vet potential employers. \u201cThe first step is to look at the content and messaging the company puts on social. Is it \u201creal people\u201d talk or is it all press releases and product information? If they have employment-specific social channels are they just posting jobs or are they actually showing you what it is like to work at the company? Is it all stock images or are they actually showing you real people in their actual environment?\u201d\nAre there actual employees of the organization participating on social media, talking about working at the company is like. What they say and do can be very telling about their culture. \u201cIf the employees aren\u2019t saying or doing anything \u2013 that says a lot too,\u201d says Nathanson.\nDo your due diligence\nThere is certainly no shortage of data and these days as candidates have more places than ever to find it \u2013LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Twitter or the organizations website for example. \u201cIt behooves you to explore and use this to your advantage. How does the company represent [itself] externally on the Web and social [media]? What do their current and former employees have to say on sites like Glassdoor.com and others? Do you relate to their employment brand and the messaging they are portraying of what it is like to work at the company?,\u201dasks Nathanson.\nThat said, experts warn job seekers of potential pitfalls in this digital landscape. \u201cOne can get a lot of data from social media. But you\u2019ve got to validate and verify that data to get useful information. For example, Glassdoor comments are mostly negative. However, a string of negative comments about a specific unit or group may not necessarily indicate a collectively bad company culture but a weak manager. Interactions with company personnel during the interview process are a great time to look for clues that will give oneself truthful insights about the culture,\u201d says Victor V. Kumar, vice president and CIO with Preferred Employers Group.\nAsk the right questions\nOnce you make it to the interview process, make sure you ask the questions that will give you the insight you need to figure out how you will fit into their culture. Of course, you want to ask them to describe their culture but our experts also offer these questions that will help you glean insight into the organization.\nBesides experience or their resume, why are your best employees successful? \u201cProbe a bit on why some people haven\u2019t been successful, too -- taking away the focus on resume and experience and shifting to softer skills to get to the best personality traits that work or do not work in that culture,\u201d says Nathanson.\nAsking for a tour of their offices is a great way to see how employees interact with each other. \u201cStart with reviewing the physical space. Are there lots of private offices? Cubes? Open work areas? Is technology visible in all areas? Are screens on the walls of open areas, conference rooms, do people roam with their laptops?,\u201c says Elaine Varelas, managing partner Keystone Partners. How do the employees look? Are they happy, engaged, and productive -- or clock-watchers, just waiting for the day to be over.\n\n\t\n\nAsk your interviewer, \u2018What would you change about the culture if you could?\u2019 This type of question will help you get beyond the superficial and rehearsed answers and drive more meaningful and open conversations.\nAsk them about he mission of the organization. \u201cMost people won't know it or will guess incorrectly, which will be a signal that there is some misalignment between what they say and what they do as a company,\u201c says Van Vreede.\n\u201cAsk questions around how operational or project deadlines are set. Then ask about what process ensures that they are adhered to and how delays are dealt with,\u201d says Kumar.\nAnother good question, says Kumar, is how operational or project teams are organized and led in a company. \u201cRemember, a successful company culture is not just about how well they work together but also more importantly about how well they can execute,\u201d Kumar says.\nSpeak with current employees\nMany employers agree that you should network your way into these conversations before you get into the interview process. \u201cThrough networking, candidates should contact current and former employees to find out more about the culture -- both spoken and unspoken. A candidate needs to know the culture they work best in, because what one person hates may be exactly the culture where you might be successful,\u201d Varelas says.\nHowever, there is a time and place in the interview process where it makes sense to talk to potential coworkers and this is a great time to get a feel for what will potentially be your home away from home. Experts say that it be in the stage of the interview where there is mutual interest from both parties so the first phone interview isn\u2019t the time to pose this request. It makes sense to wait until you are closer to the finish line. \u201cAfter all -- you want to know the team you would be working with On a side note \u2013 if the process has not included [conversations with] potential peers up to that point that can be telling, too. What is the reason and what might that mean? Is it a very hierarchical org? Maybe they don\u2019t value the team\u2019s opinion in the process? Are they not empowered to be part of the interview team?,\u201c Nathanson says.\nLook for cues in your correspondence\nClues to how a company operates may appear in your phone conversations, meetings or emails. You\u2019ve got to be strategically aware of this. \u201cDuring the interactions, whether it is an email exchange with HR\/hiring manager or the interview discussions, look for behavioral clues. For example, if everyone you meet is always rushed, it may indicate a sense of urgency or reactionary approach to things. Don\u2019t look for perfection, but look to see if the culture is about evolving and getting better,\u201d says Kumar.\nDon\u2019t be blinded by perks\nIn the world of technology you regularly here about the latest startup offering perks that on the surface seem incredible but often there is a price to pay for those perks like long hours or being on call for example. In other situations it can seem like there is no one at the helm at all and in those cases the culture just kind of creates itself, good or bad. Remember thjat culture isn\u2019t necessarily about the perks provided but more about traits and the core values that an organizations embraces. All the perks in the world won\u2019t make up for poor leadership, a bad work environment or lack of culture from the top down.\nThe bottom-line\nKnowing who you are and what is important to you are the first steps on the road to career success. Combine that with the right research and a little luck and you should find yourself in a job that you want to be in. However, if don\u2019t invest the time and resources necessary you will likely find yourself looking for a new job and no one wants to go through those efforts all over again.