What the employer is looking for during the first interview: Test 3.

Are you the goldfish swimming against the culture of the company?

Are you the goldfish swimming against the culture of the company?

In this series of 4 articles Julian Smith provides you with some clear guidelines as to what the typical hiring manager expects of you at an interview.  Today we take Test 3, Fit The Culture.

Setting the Scene

In my career to date, I’ve spent hundreds of hours interviewing candidates for jobs – either as one of my direct reports, or someone reporting to a member of my team.  Every “first interview” has 4 key hurdles or tests you need to pass to get to the next stage of the interview process.  You’ll need to pass all 4 well, to be the preferred candidate for the job – and that should be your goal right up front.

Ask yourself, “What is the employer looking for from the perfect candidate and how can I position myself so that I am perceived as one of the front runners for the position?”

Remember perception is everything in the first interview – you may well be the most qualified or experienced, but how you come across during that first meeting carries the most weight initially.

Here are the 4 tests you’ll need to pass to progress and my tips on how to ace them.

  1. Make a good first impression
  2. Build effective rapport
  3. Fit the culture (today)
  4. Prove your skill set

We’ll take each “test” separately in a series of 4 short articles with tips on how to ace each one.  Today is Test 3.

Test 3: Fit The Culture

So you’ve made a great first impression (Test 1), you’ve built effective rapport (Test 2), now you need to demonstrate that you will fit the culture.

All throughout the interview, you’ll be assessed for culture fit.  The interviewer(s) will be asking themselves “will this person fit in with the way we do things around here?” and it’s the hardest hurdle of all.  This is primarily because much of the interviewer(s) assessment will be based on their subjective observations of you, many of which may well be unfair and ‘politically’ incorrect.

Legally, employers aren’t able to generally pick and choose candidates based on age, appearance or gender – but the fact is, they do.  They’ll be considering; “how will this person fit into the team, are they too old, the wrong gender, the wrong personality, too quiet, too passive, too much of an extravert, too dowdy, even too attractive”.  Some of these are hard to take – but these judgements are real.

  • Do your homework upfront. Passing the “culture fit” test is all about applying for roles, where you have strong evidence that the work / company culture will work for you – and you for them.  Remember a job application is a 2-way street, you should be assessing whether or not you want to work for this company.  You can use a structured approach to keep things objective.  An example is the Role Attribute Template where various attributes – including culture fit, are score carded with appropriate weightings.  Read about this approach here.
  • Square peg.  Round hole? There is no point trying to position yourself to fit a culture that doesn’t suit you.  You’re likely to come across as inauthentic and if you do get the job, chances are, you’re not going to love it (unless you can adapt quickly).
  • Research. The best way to get a handle on the work culture is to ask around before applying for the job.  If that proves tricky, then make sure you ask a few relevant questions in the screening process.  This is fairly straight forward – before applying for the role, telephone the key contact and indicate you’re interested in the position, but wanted to ask a few questions to assess whether or not you’re a suitable candidate for the position.  This does 2 things, it sets you apart as someone who does not want to waste the recruiter’s time and also let’s you test the role against your key criteria (use the Role Attribute Template).  To learn more about the culture try asking “I know that culture fit is very important for your company, are you able to give me a little detail on the dynamics and work approach of the team I would be working in?”
  • Ask relevant questions during the actual interview – always have questions prepared about the role and the company to ask (which you typically do toward the end).  The perfect candidate will not respond “I don’t really have any questions” – if all your questions are actually answered in the interview, ask a more open question “what do you consider the company’s greatest challenge will be in the next 3 years”.  Great questions and the resulting dialogue will demonstrate your mental agility, hunger for the role and set you apart.   The answers also helps you assess whether or not you actually want the job.  i.e. is the environment challenging enough for you?
  • Appropriate questions. Try and ask questions the interviewer should be expected to know, don’t ask too many and never ask a question that could obviously be easily answered by reading the company’s website.  If you have a lot of unanswered questions at this point you’ve probably not done sufficient research.  If you do progress to the point where you’re offered the job, then feel free to ask any remaining questions – the employer will be happy to answer them.

Look out for Step 4, Prove Your Skill set

Julian Smith

Julian Smith

Julian Smith is a company director, blogger and business commentator based in Auckland, New Zealand. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Are you the goldfish swimming against the culture of the company?

Are you the goldfish swimming against the culture of the company?


Visit MyCareerBrand.net for more helpful tips on winning interviews

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Contact: www.MyCareerBrand.net Phone: +64 21 666 807, +64 9 5222802 e-mail: info@mycareerbrand.net Craig McAlpine's Linked In profile: http://goo.gl/OxFOKZ MISSION Working with Job Search Candidates to build their go-to-market strategy, develop powerful marketing collateral such as their CV, LinkedIn profile and social media presence, and ultimately to secure a new role that is not only rewarding but also assists them on their career journey. EXPERTISE Career Coaching - LinkedIn Training - LinkedIn Optimisation - Personal Branding - Job Hunt: Go to Market Strategy and Collateral - CV design and preparation - Interview skills INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE - Professional Services - Information Technology - Banking and Finance - Recruitment

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