Most job seekers approach the interview all wrong.
You might be one of them. Do you focus on getting the interviewer to like you, instead of figuring out whether the opportunity is the right FIT for you?
Fit is about the job you’ll do and the culture you’ll be in. Of course you want to express your value in the best way possible in your interview, and it’s great if your interviewer likes you — we’ll touch on that in part 3 of this series. But I want to be really clear on this point: You can assess JOB fit and CULTURE fit in your interview. And guess what? Those two things are separate considerations.
Today we’re talking about culture.
“Culture” Doesn’t Mean what you Think it Means
People often try to figure out culture BEFORE they interview, and they use tools like Glassdoor, word of mouth, and benefits descriptions to gauge if the company is a place they want to work. If it’s not, they decline interviews without even giving the company a second glance.
But there’s so much more to culture than what you can find online. When it comes to figuring out culture, as a Job Search Coach I give my clients one simple piece of advice:
“ALWAYS take the meeting.”
People are afraid to make a move into the wrong work culture — and I understand that. You want to work in a place where you feel safe and respected, and for a company with values that align to yours. But it’s hard (impossible?) to assess a company’s culture without careful assessment during your interview… and this is what can happen if you don’t:
Best Place to Work Awards: an Ugly Truth
Early on in my career I worked for a maternity clothing company — one that had earned a national Best Place to Work for Women award! Unfortunately, the company did not deserve the award. In fact, the company regularly restructured so they could “lay off” pregnant women. During my tenure there, the company was sued by multiple women who were “laid off” when they announced their pregnancy.
It taught me a valuable lesson: the award they proudly showed off on their website and in the entryway when I went to my interview was smoke and mirrors. Awards are a sign of a great PR engine, not the reality of a company’s values and practices.
Had I known what I know today, I would have been much more strategic during my interview process.
Since then, I’ve worked with countless job seekers who have had similar experiences — a company has amazing “Great Places to Work” awards, but a different reality. Now when I work with job seeking clients, I coach them to be the interviewer of a company as much as they are the interviewee.
Below is my #1, go-to piece of advice for assessing company culture before you accept that new job offer.
Pay attention to who you’re NOT meeting in your interview.
The company is going to prevent you from meeting the jerk you’ll have to work with, or a person who will tell the truth about the company’s culture. “Unfortunately Leslie isn’t here today, so you won’t get to meet her.” Is she someone you have to work with all the time? Why aren’t you meeting with her?
It’s something you can address before you accept the offer. “I didn’t get a chance to meet Leslie. I’d really like to meet her, since she’s an important part of what I’ll be doing. When can I come in to meet her?”
Look out for culture fit by addressing who you’re not meeting.
If it’s not because they’re a jerk, it may be because they’re the person who will provide you with candid insight into what the culture is like. Companies hide even their best and brightest, if that person is outspoken and honest about problems with the company culture.
Need another reason to ask to meet Leslie? If she’s a key collaborator for you and she’s been sidelined by the search to find you, she’ll appreciate that you made the time to connect with her! You’ll no longer be the person that she was forced to work with, but a peer and collaborator that she appreciates.
Your Sharpest Culture Assessment Tool
When you incorporate assessing culture fit into your interview process, you’ll unearth hidden indicators for whether the company and team is right for YOU. If you take one thing from Mastering the Interview for culture, know this: CURIOSITY in job interviews is your best friend.
When you ask thoughtful, strategic questions about a company’s culture, you’ll land in a corporate and team culture that fits your work style. Ultimately, this positions you for faster professional growth in the longer term, and greater impact on day 1.
Want to use your interviews to find the right culture for you?
In my latest cheat sheet, 5 Underused Interview Practices to Find a Culture that Aligns with Your Values, I’ve pulled together my top 5 tips to help you learn more about a company before you accept that new job. You can download it by clicking the button below.
Many clients come to me because they are unhappy in their career, and are scared that a new job search will only lead to a new job, or culture, where they don’t fit. Your approach to interviews can make or break your future success, and help you understand fit BEFORE you accept the job. The key to using interviews to YOUR advantage is knowing the equation. Mastering the Interview is a 3 part equation that includes:
- Assessing job fit
- Assessing cultural fit (this article)
- Presenting your best, authentic self
In this 3-part series, I address each of these areas separately, to help you prepare for your next interviews and land a work-life you love.
You can read more about shifting your mindset for interviews, by clicking on my post here.