More and more often, it seems that highly trained and highly competent senior managers are leaving their new employers after an even shorter time. In some cases, a new “dream job” is voluntarily abandoned, and in others, an executive is let go, despite his incredible qualifications. How can this be? Their technical skills, their work history, their analytical and problem solving skills passed muster during the interview process – the candidate seemed like an ideal employee. So what went wrong?
It all comes down to cultural fit – companies must find candidates that fit into their corporate culture.
The problem lies with a poor fit between a candidate and a company. Or perhaps more simply stated – the chemistry just wasn’t there. “Cultural fit” refers to the values, goals, beliefs and general relationships within a company. A successful collaboration can quickly go wrong when the expectations of the employee and the company drift too far from one another. For candidates who value flat hierarchies, open and direct communication, and teamwork, it might be difficult to work in a company where one must always address their superiors as “Sir” and “Madam.” When candidates are accustomed to companies with a “startup feeling,” it may prove difficult to switch to a job that requires a three piece suit. Changes like these might seem minor, but they could lead to an employee feeling uncomfortable in his new position.
How can we minimize the risk of hiring someone who doesn’t fit the culture?
Of course, this is entirely up to the company. A well organized HR department must be aware of the “cultural fit” factor throughout the recruitment process. A company must make sure that they have clearly defined values. These values should not be an invention of the marketing department, but rather, the opposite. Authentic and strong employer brands are incredibly valuable. When choosing new employees, corporate recruiters should not rely on personal values. At the end of the day, it’s not about gut feeling, it’s about a well-structured test that ensures that the applicant and the company complement one another.
But naturally, the applicant also has a strong influence over whether they fit the company culture. Before they decide to accept any new position, they should consider the following questions: How do I best like to work? What corporate and company cultures really fit my personality? Make a checklist and take note of how this company measures up. Remember that it’s not all about money, and the proposed salary at one company could be easily earned at another firm, too. Think of more than compensation and reputation of a potential employer.
Four Practical Tips on Cultural Fit
1. Consider this: which companies would be a good fit for me? What is important to you? What motivates you to perform at your best? How do you handle teamwork? Do you fit better in a diverse or similar team? How do you handle challenges and pressure, as well as criticism? And most importantly: what kind of work environments make you uncomfortable?
2. The Quick Check: How does this company present themselves? Put your company under the microscope. Do they have a clearly defined company culture? Check their website, their career page, and their social media channels to get an idea of your potential future employer. Does your employee position themselves as old-fashioned and traditional, or creative, young, and dynamic? If you know anyone there, you have a good chance of getting a few insights about the day-to-day, and the company culture. Does the company’s overview seem realistic, and above all else: do you identify with their values? If the prospect of a large salary is the only attractive reason to work for this company, you need to strongly consider if you’ll be happy in the long-term.
3. The First Interview. Pay attention to your first impression of the office. How are the coworkers dressed? Are you addressed as “Sir or Madam,” or with a less formal greeting? Use your antenna and take note of the details: what’s the mood like at this company? Lastly, and most importantly, ask yourself: could you see yourself coming to work happily every morning?
4. Any more questions? Companies don’t only want you to ask questions, they expect that you will! Use this opportunity to inform yourself about any specific aspects of the company culture that might inform your decision. The bonus: You’ll appear interested, and underline your competencies with clever and targeted questions about the company. Appropriate questions include:
- How would you describe your company culture?
- Concerning this position, are you looking for a “team player” or a “lone wolf?”
- How would you describe the leadership style of your supervisors?
Especially as a senior executive, you should decide on working for an employer with the right cultural fit. In the long-term, money isn’t enough motivation to motivate you to work to your highest potential. Rather, a fitting company culture, and the right work environment will push you to achieve, and help to lay the groundwork for the success of your professional development.
About Philip Athanas:
Philip Athanas studied Regional Economics at the University of Potsdam, and began working for the consulting firm meta HR during his studies. He’s responsible for marketing and communications at meta HR, which specializes in development and implementation of contemporary concepts. The company supports clients with talent scouting, promotion, and relationships. Philip Athanas is also a founding member of the Forum for Innovative Personnel e.V. (FIP e.V.). This forum offers a platform for networking, idea and experience exchange in the field of innovative concepts for HR. Special attention is given to the inclusion of technical possibilities, and their relevant corporate cultural and societal feedback with HR departments in companies and organisations (FIP e.V.) is the organizer of the yearly Berlin-based HR BarCamp. Philip Athanas lives and works in Berlin.