Just returned from a trip to Florida and had the opportunity to meet a number of people who used to live elsewhere, but now call the Sunshine State their home. The vast majority of those folks moved to be with or take care of parents or just became tired of six months of snow and cold weather every year. One thing that each had in common was that they had found a job that was a great fit for their personality and skill set. Not coincidentally, each of these people seemed very happy with their job and demonstrated an above average level of customer service.
Funny how that works!
Whether you are passively or actively seeking a new place of employment, one of the most critical factors that cannot be ignored is being a great fit for an organization’s culture. Culture is not just a bunch of words in a mission statement or some slick poster on a bulletin board in the break room; it is the day-to-day energy that truly drives a company toward greatness. If you don’t fit well into a company’s culture (i.e., a square peg into a square hole), then I suggest you might look elsewhere for your dream job.
On the short list of key components of what makes up a hiring manager’s ideal candidate, cultural fit is normally at or near the top. This is why so many candidates find themselves having to go through four or more interviews along with taking personality tests. There is tremendous pressure on hiring managers to bring in top-tier talent and this causes many to hesitate when making their final selection.
So, how do you know if you are the right fit for a targeted employer and if that employer is a great fit for your personality? In my opinion, the only way to do this effectively is with a lot of focused research prior to an interview and a high degree of observation during the interview process.
Here are some suggestions for types of research that can do much to help determine if an opportunity/company and you are a great match:
Perform a thorough review of the company’s website, press releases, Facebook page, blog and Twitter postings and associated LinkedIn group discussions. What is the image they are projecting? Would you be proud to be associated with this organization…why? Can you see yourself carrying their “corporate banner”? Do an Internet search for forums written by former and current employees – about what are they most often communicating and how well does that match up with who and what you are?
Use the “Advanced” People Search function on LinkedIn to find profiles for those that already work in the department/group in which you have an interest. Thoroughly review their individual profiles and find commonalities among existing employees in the targeted group. Do you “look” like the people who were already hired for that group by the current hiring manager? What skills are the hiring manager seeking from his/her ideal candidate? Do you have a key skill or competency, which is being sought by the hiring manger that the current employees (based upon their LinkedIn profiles) do not? If so, use that to your advantage, beginning with the cover letter and resume!
Visit the company a couple of days prior to your scheduled interview not only to figure out how long it will take you to get there (plan on arriving at the same time as your scheduled interview to learn what traffic might be like on that route at that time of day…you don’t want to be late). Use this opportunity to observe what types of clients are visiting the location and to see how the employees are dressed and how they are interacting with each other and the visitors. You can learn much about a company’s true culture from just a few minutes of close observation. While you’re standing there, ask yourself, “Would I be thrilled being a part of this team/organization? Could I flourish here and find the type of success and sense of accomplishment, which I am seeking?”
Find people you know who either are currently employed by or used to work for the targeted company or one of its competitors or clients and ask them for opinions regarding the organization’s culture, employee environment, training and support for workers/staff, customer service philosophy, etc. Networking events are great sources for this type of information.
Seek out reports written by financial/stock analysts if the targeted organization is a public company. These folks are paid to be experts on certain companies and will report on the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of their direction, management team’s philosophy, willingness to invest in people and technology and vision going forward.
How are you treated during the interview process? Remember, the company is seeking to find top talent and should be on their best behavior in order to “woo” you. If you aren’t getting “first date” level attention and treatment, then what will things be like when the “honeymoon” is over? I’ve had many people with whom I’ve done job search coaching tell me about interviewers who they felt treated them poorly or even may have lied to them. At those moments, these candidates realized, “I could never be happy here”.
Yes, all of this research can take a lot of time, if done properly, but it can save a candidate from making a poor career decision resulting in months or years of miserable employment (I recently assisted a candidate with his resume and during that process he told me how he had “really hated” his last few jobs. The candidate admitted that he had never done any of the research such as I’ve suggested in this post and that if he had, things might have been very different regarding the jobs in which he wound up.)
Let me wrap up this post by going back to Florida for a moment. One of the people we met was Tina, the person who took care of all of the rentals (boogie boards, kayaks, chairs, umbrellas, etc.) on the beach we visited. While she was setting up the chairs and umbrella we rented for the day, we learned that Tina was from New Jersey and had moved with her husband and two children to the area a few years prior to be near her parents (who had retired there). I remarked that I was very impressed with her level of customer service (we had watched her assist other “renters” before getting to us) and engaging personality. She looked at us and with the waves and a warm ocean breeze gently rolling in behind her, extended both arms and said, “This is my office (indicating “her” stretch of beach) and this is how I dress for work each day (i.e., floppy hat, bare feet, shorts and a tank top with the employer’s logo). What’s not to love about this?” Good points! She went on to say, “The hours are right and my boys get to see their grandparents whenever they want”. All of this looked and sounded for her like a match made in heaven, as the saying goes.
Tina finished our conversation by stating with a big smile, “This really is my dream job”.