The notion of company culture has assumed enormous importance in the modern workplace. Candidates see it as one of the decisive factors in their decision to apply for and to accept job offers. If it turns out that most aspects of the role are satisfactory but the individual and the culture are not compatible then the employment relationship is unlikely to last. In a Glassdoor survey, 77% of respondents said that culture fit strongly influenced their decisions and 56% even ranked it as a higher priority than salary .
This applies at every level, from apprentices upwards, but in many ways, finding the rich culture fit is even more important at executive level. Why? Because senior hires are required to make a significant personal and professional investment in the company they are joining. Their managerial responsibilities bind them into the company's operations and structure in ways that other employees don't experience. So if you're looking for your next executive role, what should you be looking for, and what should you avoid?
What is Company Culture Fit?
The term company culture refers to the attitudes, values and behaviour of a company, from its management downwards. It informs the interaction of employees, the way decisions are made, how problems are solved and achievements rewarded. It might be deliberately cultivated or simply evolve from time and practice. Often it will be a mixture of the two.
Different companies can have very different cultures and what suits one executive may be wholly unsuitable for another. For example, some people thrive in a formally structured, hierarchical environment and wouldn't contemplate the Silicon Valley model. Others find such organisations stifling and respond far better in a more casual, collaborative workplace that prioritises very different qualities. There's no right or wrong - it's simply a case of finding one that matches as closely as possible your own values and instincts where you will feel empowered rather than restricted.
How Can You Tell if a Culture Fit is Right or Wrong for You?
Learn as much as you can about your prospective employer. The place to start is their website, which, although it is designed to project the image they've chosen, will still give you a good sense of the company's personality. Follow through to their social media interactions, which, while curated, can offer reliable insights into the company mindset and attitudes.
Make the most of secondary sources too. Look for press coverage and any news stories which reveal details not readily offered by their website. If a company professes strong green and social values but you find evidence that they have profited from unethical practices, this should be a warning not to take their mission statement at face value. Conversely, you might discover an impressive track record in charitable funding which they have chosen not to broadcast, suggesting a genuine desire to help good causes.
Online reviews from employees and clients can also be valuable. You can't expect every review to be positive, but if you see patterns emerging of dissatisfaction, then this should give you pause.
Also, if you have the opportunity for a personal visit, take a close look at the working environment. You can pick up a lot of clues about how things run and the level of employee contentment from the physical evidence. Don't go into this with the intention of catching them out. Simply treat it as the due diligence necessary before taking an important career move.
How to Improve Your Chances of Landing a Job with the Right Culture Fit
Once you're satisfied that you understand the culture of the company, you need to convince your prospective employer not only that your skills and experience qualify you for the executive position but also that you are a good fit for their culture. Employers take employee retention very seriously, so they are just as careful about matching the individual to the job and the culture as the candidate is.
The research you've done will be very useful in demonstrating your suitability. Knowing what's important to the company helps you focus on those issues and how they matter to you. Even if you don't have direct experience of its culture, your understanding of and empathy for it will take you a long way. Talk about your comparable involvement with charities and social or environmental issues. If diversity is a major priority, express your appreciation of its positive significance.
If you get the chance for an interview, be ready to ask questions about the culture and values of the business. Don't bombard the interviewer, but don't be diffident. In some ways, the questions you ask will be more advantageous to you than the answers because they'll show how carefully you've thought about the issues.
What if the Culture Fit is Wrong but Everything Else is Right?
In our experience, this is not a satisfactory position. It can be tempting to look at the salary, the prospects and the challenges while downplaying the cultural misalignments. You might be lucky, take the job and do well despite the cultural incompatibility. It's more likely that the poor fit will erode the positives over time and leave you regretting the decision. Essentially, if the culture isn't right, then nothing else will be for very long.
If you don't put the question of culture fit first then you risk all kinds of problems further down the line. Collaboration may be compromised, communications with fellow executives and the board can become strained, you may find yourself obliged to take decisions that conflict with your own values, and ultimately you may find your position untenable.
Cento is a market leader in sourcing talent for the building services market, including clients in information and communications technology. We have extensive experience in helping executives into roles that not only offer satisfaction and career development but bring with them perfect company culture fit.
Call us today on 01509 615290