I spoke with a friend and former co-worker recently after his third and final interview for a based advertising company. He was contending for a consulting position that he had all of the qualifications for and he believed he conveyed this well during the interview process.
It was down to him and one other candidate, and he was given the news that the latter candidate was more of a cultural fit. To him, it felt like a personal attack. “What does that even mean? I’m not the right ‘cultural fit’- am I just not ‘cool’ enough or something?” Well, yes and no. Taken at face value, “cultural fit” is a nice way of saying, “You’re a qualified candidate, but you’d probably be happier somewhere else.”
Conducting research on companies to find ones with the right cultural fit could swing the pendulum in your favor when job competition is steep. Here are some initial steps to take and questions to ask in an interview to gauge what companies will be the right match.
Find someone on the inside
One of the best resources for gaining insight on a company’s culture is through a confidant. When I first moved to Chicago, many of my close friends who were actors or improvisers worked at Groupon, which boasts a corporate culture geared toward the millennial generation. Groupon’s culture includes a lot of fun perks: casual dress, free La Croix, team outings, a tiki bar and of course, a roving velociraptor. But after speaking with an employee, I found those perks were outweighed by a management style and workday that didn’t align with what I was personally looking for in a company.
If you have the connection, talk with someone internally and ask questions regarding company culture that you may not be able to broach in an interview. Their personality can even give you context clues.
Do some cyber-sleuthing (not stalking … sleuthing)
You’ll find that most companies include an overview of what it’s like to work there on their company website. It’s easy to gloss over these summaries when reading a job description or perusing postings, and sometimes they are buried under an “About Us” section. Mission statements will help you gain more insight into the values a company wants to promote within its organization. Also be sure to check out the company’s LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter pages, as this will give you valuable information on what the company is working on and photos of corporate events and activities. This can help you determine if the types of activities the company takes part in get you excited or turn you off.
Find common cultural ground
During your interview, try to find some common ground with your interviewer, such as a love for theater or a shared alma mater. Making these personal connections can help solidify that you’ll fit in with the team. While the job description may give you a hint about the corporate culture (e.g., if they’re looking for someone with a “great sense of humor”), finding commonalities with the interviewer will provide even more of a confirmation that you’ve found your perfect company.
Ask the right questions during the interview
Go into the interview knowing what your “cultural fit” deal-breakers are, and address them accordingly. Ask your hiring manager to describe the work environment. How are employee achievements recognized within the company? What activities outside of work does the department participate in as a group? What benefits does the company offer?
Even asking one of these questions can help you better recognize the dynamics of the team you could potentially be joining.
Keeping your job culture preferences in mind can help set you apart from the competition and better ensure job satisfaction when you do find your career match.
Caitlin Boho, CareerBuilder writer