Does the Culture Fit?

Have you ever been a finalist in a career opportunity only to find you were not successful? Did this make you wonder why? Then, when you asked for feedback, you received only a vague response – something about “cultural fit”. While this of course is disappointing and maybe even mystifying, the concept of cultural fit itself is very true and very applicable. You see, recruiting for a new staff person is like a blind date. You typically meet a person once or twice, talk to the individual, assess whether or not there is a feeling of fit or “chemistry” and then make a decision.

But what does this chemistry or cultural fit look like? Cultural fit is all about whether or not the interviewer sees an integration of personal, professional and corporate values during the interview process and in the initial assessment. Appearance plays a big role. If the organization is very corporate in all of its business dealings and a candidate attends the interview far too informal and perhaps with rings and jingles on their toes…. clearly, there will not be a fit. If an organization is known for its aggressiveness and self-confidence, then a candidate who is timid and non-assertive will get eaten alive and therefore, once again, there is no fit. It is all a question of perceived values.

Values are personal and professional motivators that drive us in one direction or another. People and organizations both have values. For people, these are demonstrated by what individuals are interested in and what they want to do with their career. Values in organizations are demonstrated by professional ethics, which social agencies they support and how they conduct their business. In other words, if a candidate is inclined towards a helping profession, more than likely they won’t fit well in an organization that is focused on compliance of some sort or another.

What are some of these personal and professional values? Many of the values that are encountered in the workplace include such things as a desire for advancement, independence and autonomy, security and safety, fighting for a just cause, the ability to apply managerial or technical expertise, or the need for life work balance. Many individuals also have a geographic value in that they are not willing to move away from their home territory for a job. Still others value being associated with a large organization with a well known name and reputation because they get their security from this arrangement.

Organizations develop a reputation the same way individuals do. These reputations are typically well known in a community as people who leave these organizations often have stories to tell. As well, there are often news reports of organizational successes and/or trials and tribulations. Therefore, from a candidate perspective, it is important prior to any interview that you check out the values of your potential employer as best you can. Review their website, do a Google search on the web to see what type of profile they have. Ask for advice with your professional network.

Determine what is being said about your potential employer at street level. If you see nothing but conflictual situations, evidence of high turnover, or stories that pose even more questions, then you need to do a lot more research about the culture of the organization, whether or not you fit and even whether or not you wish to apply.

In addition, prepare yourself to ask some questions of the corporate recruiter. Ask for examples of how the values stated on the organizational website or in the job advertisement are applied in the workplace. Then assess these examples to determine for yourself indeed there is a fit for you.

As I have said earlier, recruiting for a new staff person is like a blind date. You typically meet a person once or twice, talk to the individual, assess whether or not there is a feeling of fit or “chemistry” and then make a decision. However, this decision making process should occur with both parties. So, the next time you are mystified about the lack of success with a particular job opportunity, take a moment to reassess the cultural fit.