Set the groundwork in executive job search to land a job that’s the right culture fit:
If you’ve read even a few of my blog posts about executive job search best practices, you know that the first steps to land an executive job that will be a mutual good fit are:
1. Targeting – identifying companies that will meet your career goals, and whose business goals you will help meet.
2. Research – learning about each of those companies and determining current pain points or problems of theirs that you’re uniquely qualified to help them with. Your research will help you to position yourself, and with due diligence.
3. Personal Branding – defining and differentiating the qualities and qualifications that make you the best problem solver for your target companies.
That last piece – personal branding – takes your preparation to a higher level. It gets you closer to understanding what kind of work culture will work for you, and what won’t work for you.
You have to know yourself . . . including your values, the way you work best on the job, and your professional goals.
Personal branding helps you access these things within yourself because it requires digging deep and being introspective about yourself, and how you’re perceived by others.
If you DON’T work on all 3 of the steps above:
- You’ll land fewer job interviews with companies that may meet your work culture requirements.
- You won’t be well enough prepared to speak to your target employers about your potential value to their company.
- You won’t be able to align your values with theirs, one of the cornerstones of good culture fit.
Why culture fit is so important . . . to both the job seeker and the company
The reasons why YOU need to know whether or not a potential new employer will be a good culture fit are probably obvious:
- You want to find a job that keeps you happy.
- You want to work with people whose values are aligned with yours.
- You want to work for an employer who will meet your needs for career fulfillment.
- You want to take as little risk as possible leaving your current job to move to a new one.
- You don’t want to subject yourself to another job search early in the game because you’ve picked the wrong employer.
A company’s need for employees with good culture fit is similar, but driven by different factors.
A Harvard Business Review article by leading executive recruitment professional Katie Bouton notes:
“Culture fit is the glue that holds an organization together. That’s why it’s a key trait to look for when recruiting. The result of poor culture fit due to turnover can cost an organization between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary”.
The hiring process is a costly one.
The better hiring professionals are at determining through the interview process who will or won’t be a good culture fit, the less turnover the company experiences, and the less costly the hiring process will be.
Be prepared before interviewing to determine good culture fit
According to an Ivy Exec article:
“Knowing whether an organization will be a good fit should start well before the first interview. You wouldn’t move to countries without researching before-hand, and a work place should be no different. When you are researching companies to apply to, or those with open jobs, be sure to find out what your contacts say about the organization and its work environment. How does the website represent the organization?”
The introspective work you need to do to define your personal brand takes these things into account, so you’ll be that much ahead of the game.
Once you’ve done the prep work (targeting, research and personal branding) and you start getting job interviews, culture fit, of course, comes into play in a more compelling way.
You’ll need to be prepared to answer interviewers’ questions designed to help them determine whether you’re a good culture fit.
Culture fit questions employers typically ask in the job interview
The Harvard Business Review article above goes on to outline some questions hiring professionals may ask you to help them assess culture fit:
- What type of culture do you thrive in? (Does the response reflect your organizational culture?)
- What values are you drawn to and what’s your ideal workplace?
- Why do you want to work here?
- How would you describe our culture based on what you’ve seen? Is this something that works for you?
- What best practices would you bring with you from another organization? Do you see yourself being able to implement these best practices in our environment?
- Tell me about a time when you worked with/for an organization where you felt you were not a strong culture fit. Why was it a bad fit?
Things about company culture you may be able to pick up in the interview
According to Art Markman, PhD, professor of Psychology and Marketing:
The quicker you can pick up on the culture — particularly if you can suss out some of it from the interview — the more likely you are to save yourself heartache down the line.
He offered a few ways to get a feel for the culture in the interview:
Pay attention to people’s values
“You can get a sense of what people value from how they talk about the importance of what they’re doing. Starting with the interview process, pay attention to more than just what the job entails and how much you’ll get paid to do it. From hiring managers on down, you’ll hear statements about what your future colleagues think is crucial for success at the company. People will talk about the elements of their work that are dear to them.”
Watch how people interact
“Take a look at how the people interviewing you are interacting with each other. For example, some organizations are very hierarchical. People give deference to those above them on the ladder and expect those below them to defer. Other organizations are flat. Anyone can — and should — say anything to anyone.”
Heed that spidey-sense
“Sometimes when you engage with people at a new organization, something just feels off. That fast intuitive system is picking up on something that is not a good match to what you have encountered before. By analogy to Marvel comic books, I sometimes call this the ‘Spidey-Sense’ . . . Tread carefully until you have a more explicit sense of what you’re reacting to. Use that nagging feeling as an excuse to have more conversations with people that address their values and to observe more of the interactions between people.”
Things YOU should say and ask to demonstrate good culture fit in the job interview
In an article on The Muse, Anne Shaw suggests demonstrating your good culture fit in job interviews by coming “prepared with anecdotes that showcase how your experience and passions align with [their] values.”
4 universal values to show your culture fit in executive job interviews
The article goes further to say there are some characteristics that all employers look for when assessing culture fit:
1. You’re willing to learn
2. You’re motivated
3. You see the big picture
4. You’re a team player
To demonstrate that you possess these 4 characteristics, prepare stories using the Challenge – Action – Results (C-A-Rs) method built around those characteristics.
You’ll also need to be prepared to ask the kinds of questions that will help you get a better handle on culture fit, such as these in my article Executive Interview: What Questions Do YOU Ask?
- What responsibilities in this job are really going to define success for this person?
- What skills and qualities will be most important in this position?
- How can I demonstrate that I’m a good fit for this position?
- What do you (the interviewer) like and not like about working here?
You’ll find more questions YOU should ask in interviews, to help you determine culture fit, in Alison Doyle’s excellent article on The Balance, Best Questions to Ask in a Job Interview, including:
- What is the company’s management style?
- What are the biggest challenges of this job?
- What are the biggest rewards of the job and working for this company?
- What’s the most important thing I should accomplish in the first ninety days?
- How would you describe this company’s values?
- What are the company’s plans for growth and development?
- How has the company changed over the last few years?
- What type of background do you feel would be best suited for success in this position?