People often take jobs for reasons that are far different from the ones that keep them rooted to the same job. Unfortunately, most job-seekers never think about that. If they did, there would be far less turnover, not to mention angst accompanying job-changing.

Why do career-builders choose some jobs over others? They match their skills to a job description and, if pay and benefits are a lot better than their last position, they apply for the job. Pretty basic stuff, no?

But most people fail to consider the very criteria that prompt us to hold onto jobs. Most people remain at jobs because they believe in what the company stands for, which means that they’re in  sync with the company’s culture. Put vision, culture and pay/benefits together, and you have the essential ingredients of a perfect match. Workers who might normally jump ship when more money is dangled in front of them somewhere else stay right where they are. They’ve learned that there are many ingredients to the career-contentment stew that most people never think about.

So why don’t job candidates investigate a company’s vision and culture? It’s easy to blame job-seekers by arguing that they were short-sighted. The truth is many job-hunters aren’t very thorough – in fact, some are downright lazy -- and opt for the path of least resistance. But, the majority never consider investigating a prospective employer’s mission and culture because all they’re presented with is a vague, generic job description cloaked in corporate lingo and a salary. Desperate job-hunters, especially, seldom think beyond job description and salary/benefits. Can you blame them?

As for the corporate side of the picture, many managers and Human Resource (HR) people know next to nothing about their company’s mission, and if they were asked to give a crisp definition of their company’s culture, you’d get embarrassed grins and silly answers.

What can we learn from all this? Job candidates would be wise to question job offers and learn more about the companies they are considering. Whatever mistakes the HR people and the battalions of corporate suck-ups make to hold their jobs, it’s up to you to second-guess them and take the extra step to learn as much as you can about a potential job.

The higher you go up the corporate ladder, the more important it becomes to go way beyond job description and compensation packages. The more money you earn and the more power you command, the longer it takes to land a job.

It’s not difficult getting the lowdown on a company’s mission and culture. Here’s how to do it:

First go to the obvious place, the corporate Web site. Don’t expect much more than corporate gloss, puffery, bad writing and poorly designed sites. If you don’t believe me, look at Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler’s most recent study of the staffing pages of Fortune magazine’s annual list of “America’s 500 Largest Public Corporations.” The former HR execs examine the career pages of the bastions of corporate America in search of the job-seeker’s experience. The study spotlights the strongest practices of America’s corporations, especially the glaring gaps.

To get the true poop, do some Googling and read some recent news stories about companies you’re interested in. You’ll get a picture of where the company stands in its industry and how competitive it is.

Finally, true insights will come from reading blogs of present and former employees. They’re not difficult to find either. This is an opportunity to ask serious questions and get honest answers.

Now you have enough information to answer the big question: “Would you like to work at this company?” At this point, you will have amassed enough information to get your hands around the entire mission-culture thing.

Is it worth the extra effort? You bet it is.

Letter to the Editor: Your comments are welcome.