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The latest Dice Salary Survey shows that technologists not only value salary and benefits when evaluating a job offer, but also values that are harder to pin down, such as creativity, meaningful work and work-life balance. 

How do you know when a prospective employer shares your values? And why does it matter?

“When your career values align with your company’s, you feel energized and a sense of fulfillment,” explained Kristi Hedges, leadership coach and author of “The Inspiration Code.” 

Research confirms that happiness in the workplace may not only be a consequence of career success, but also a cause. All the more reason to make sure your principles and standards match with those of a prospective employer. Here’s what to look for during the hiring process.

Discover Your Innermost Career Values

To find an employer whose values align with yours, you first need to identify and prioritize your values and what you want out of your career at this time.

What you value changes at different points in your career, Hedges noted. For instance, junior technologists often prize money and professional growth, while more seasoned technologists tend to focus on close relationships with co-workers and achievement. 

career values sort card or assessment can help you determine what aspects of a job or a career you value the most. However, fulfillment comes from something deeper than money or commute time, so narrow the list down to the things you can’t live without, noted Vered Kogan, executive coach, CEO & founder of the Momentum Institute. 

Think about the things that have been more satisfying in your previous jobs; the things that influenced your decision to stay or go. Narrowing down your list to the top three to five things will make it easier to seek them out during the hiring process.

Research a Prospective Employer

While a company’s website is a good place to start, not every company truly lives (and works) by their stated values. For instance, Amazon says it holds up entrepreneurialism, and Microsoft emphasizes integrity—but how do those values apply to job security, promotions, recognition, decision-making autonomy or the other things you care about?

Searching online for reviews and asking focused questions of former or current employees is the first step in identifying a company’s actual values. No one knows more about the inner workings of a company than the people who work there. For example, values often guide behavior. 

So if you’re seeking recognition and promotional opportunities, for example, network with current employees to find out how top performers are recognized and the characteristics that earn promotions. Approach your discussions with curiosity, not judgement, Kogan advised. You’ll get better more authentic information if you approach the conversation with a curious mindset.

What kind of press coverage is this company getting? Who are its clients? Has management won any awards for the work environment? Outside perspectives can help you confirm or refute values alignment.

Finally, check the job posting. If the job posting is riddled with red flags or doesn’t mention a salary range, it may contradict publicly stated values like trust, honesty and transparency.

Confirm Alignment During Interviews

Look and listen carefully for examples of values during the hiring process and interviews. Does the hiring manager get back to you as promised? Are you getting consistent information from everyone?

If honesty and timeliness are important to you, and the hiring manager or recruiter doesn’t meet a deadline or seems to be holding something back, there might be a misalignment there.

Asking open-ended questions targeted toward the values that are most important to you can help you determine whether a company aligns with you before you accept an offer. 

For instance, if you are eager for a promotion, you may be curious to know if promotions are merit-based, especially when a company explicitly states that it values excellence and “achieving incredible things.” You could ask something like: “In thinking about the last person promoted to team lead, why were they promoted? What qualities did they have?” Listen carefully to see if the promoted person’s values align with your values and the company’s.

If you value pay equity, ask how the company ensures that men and women are paid equally for similar positions. If you value decision-making autonomy, ask if you would be able to choose one type of software testing over another. 

“Don’t lead the witness,” Hedges said. Ask open-ended questions that requires detailed answers to develop a better understanding of a company’s values, how they put them into practice, and most importantly, whether they align with yours.