When looking for a new job, most people certainly look for opportunities that fit their skill sets, interests, and salary requirements. Often, however, the culture of the organizations they are pursuing is very low on their list of considerations. So what? The culture of an organization will make or break your career, success, and well being. It should be as important a consideration as the jobs’ responsibilities, title, and compensation.
There are countless examples of people that had been tremendously successful in one company, get recruited to a competitor, and fail miserably in the same role. Did they lose their skills in the transition? Of course not! What they failed to consider was the difference in corporate culture.
There is an excellent large company in the market I live that has been successful and growing for many years. They have a great number of people that love the organization and have built great careers over many years there. Yet they have a very high washout rate among employees in their first year on the job. How can that be? They have a very distinct culture that greatly rewards people that take initiative, devote themselves to their careers, drive to succeed, and find new ways to drive revenue and accomplish goals. For people with personalities that fit that mold, it can be one of the greatest companies they ever hoped to work for. For people where those traits don’t come naturally, it can be one of the most punishing and discouraging experiences of their life.
The company is often very explicit about their culture in the interview process with a potential candidate in order to head-off a mis-hire. Often the candidates though think they would like to be that way so ignore the warnings. It usually only takes a few months for them to realize that it’s difficult to become something they are not and either leave or are let go due to a mismatch.
Conversely, there is another large company in town that is a competitor. Their culture is dramatically different. They tend to be more deliberate in their processes. They move at a decisively slower pace, are more risk adverse, and reward strong analysis before taking action. People that join the organization that are more ‘immediate action’ oriented quickly become frustrated at what they view as red tape and bureaucracy.
In each case, the failure of many individuals in those companies is not so much a statement about the abilities of that person as it is a failure to consider the importance of culture.
The impact can affect much more than their professional life. Some people get physical reactions due to the stress that builds up. It can affect their attitude, their confidence, and their relationships.
So how do you prevent a mismatch?; Know yourself and ask questions!
~ Self-awareness is critical! Be honest with yourself about who you are, not who you wish you were. Take personality tests, ask others that know you, and consider your past behavior in various work situations. The more you know yourself the better decisions you can make.
~ Any interview should be a 2-way street. It’s as critical for you as a candidate to determine if a particular job and company is right for you as it is for the company to determine if you are right for them. Ask questions about their management style, and how they would describe their culture. Ask for examples. Ask what makes someone successful in their organization. Ask how your work would be evaluated. Ask what their expectations would be of you in the first month, and in the first six months. The answers to these kinds of questions will give you clues as to what to expect when you are on the job.
~ Ask around. Network! Find friends, acquaintances, prior customers or vendors what they know about the company. What have they heard? Who do they know that could give you some insight? Search online. What do people say? Always be cautious of putting too much weight on comments from people that may have sour grapes about their experience there, but getting enough opinions will help you form a picture.
Don’t minimize the importance of corporate culture in your job search. It may mean the difference between a successful job move, and having to look for another job soon!