Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Company Culture: Finding the Best Fit

Congratulations! You’ve got a job offer, finally. But is it the right job for you? Are we talking about a fleeting infatuation or a long term relationship? Are you and the company truly simpatico or merely lusting after one another? Are you unprotected? No matter how prestigious the position, how high the salary, how outrageous your target bonus, how high up the corporate ladder, how fabulous the health plan, how generous your vacation days, how amazing your corner office view (by the way what was the name of that recruiter again?), if your company culture is unhappy or ethically challenged, you may not in the end feel entirely fulfilled (note: though in the end we’re all dead anyway). It is therefore incumbent upon you to determine whether your prospective employer is aligned with your core values and beliefs, but how? Luckily for you, we have devised a patented 6-step approach to assessing company cultural fit, guaranteed not to fail. Guaranteed by whom you might ask. Guaranteed by Clifford&, that’s whom.

Step #1: Self Assessment
The first step in this process is self assessment. Ask yourself: In all honesty, do I have any core values and beliefs? If you are like most people, the answer to this question will be a resounding no, in which case you are in luck. You needn’t read on any further, though you might want to just for the heck of it, in the unlikely event you acquire any core values and beliefs later on in your career.

Step #2: Inventory of Core Values & Beliefs
As to those of you who imagine that you hold core values and beliefs or anticipate doing so in the future, there is a second crucial question you must ask yourself (note: it’s not too late to go back to step #1 and call it a day): What are my core values and beliefs, or what might they be if I were to have any? Unlike step #1, which is a simple “yes, no, or depends” type question, this second step is somewhat more open ended, and thus requires some reflection and thought. Of course there’s still time to go back to step #1 and crack open that six-pack. OK, time is up, list your core values and beliefs in order of importance, or if you are having a difficult time prioritizing, just list them in alphabetical order, or just randomly, the order isn’t really all that essential.

Step #3: Clear your mind
Take a long break and clear your mind, but don’t leave your self assessment list lying around where it will get thrown away or lost in the clutter. Store it in a prominent location such as your kitchen table; just whatever you do, don’t lose the bloody list. (Note: in the event you do lose the list, which you most likely will, you can simply return to step #1 and move on already.)

Step #4 Assess Company Culture
Culture is expressed through the words and behaviors of each employee, especially bosses. The job interview is your golden opportunity to assess the work environment and organizational norms. But how can you assess the company culture during the interview while you are trumpeting your accomplishments, expanding on your differentiated value proposition and repositioning your weaknesses into strengths? Well, nobody said it was going to be easy (note: Don’t tell me you haven’t gone back to step #1 yet; what’s wrong with you?). Your window of opportunity is towards the end of the interview when you are invited to ask questions. Here are 3 fool proof questions you would be well advised to memorize verbatim (just do it):
• Does your company have a company culture, and if so can you describe it? Also where can I locate it on your company web site?
• I am a work hard, play hard kind of guy (or gal). But what really gets me up in the morning is making money and lots of it. Not just dollars and cents, but also Euros, Pounds, Pesos, Rubles, Rupees, Dinars, and Shekels. Is this compatible with your company culture?
• I am a people person. My management philosophy is to put people first; especially people of the opposite gender who I find exceedingly attractive, however I am also very bottom line oriented, and I tend to put profit firster. How does this map to your company culture?

Another effective assessment tool is keen observation. Don’t let anything escape your notice during the interview. No detail is too small or trivial. At the same time, it is essential not to be distracted, and to stay on message. Here are some factors to be on the lookout for during your interview:
• Office Décor: How did the workspace look and feel to you? Was the paint peeling? Did you notice any offensive photos or artwork on display such as swastikas, confederate battle flags or other potentially offensive imagery? Were the restrooms conveniently located?
• Courtesy & Respect: How well were you treated while interviewing? Were you left in the waiting area for hours on end and forced to fill out a detailed 20-page application in triplicate? Were you treated like an honored guest or a terrorist? If the latter, were you subjected to torture as defined by the Bush doctrine (physical pain equivalent in intensity to serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death)? Were you at least provided with an interview schedule?
• Rapport: Were there any unusual gestures or offensive language that the interviewer used? What sort of body language was conveyed? How about eye contact? Did the interviewer bring up any uncomfortable topics of a violent or prurient nature? Did the interviewer at any time request a cash payment or personal favors? Did the interviewer smile and shake your hand firmly at the close of the interview?

Remember, interviews are your opportunity to observe, ask questions and assess the company culture. In some cases it can even lead to getting a job offer.

Step #5 Take Another Break
Time to take a deep breath again and relax. You’ve just been through the interview from hell for chrissake. Don’t worry too much about the follow up letter. You’ll get around to it when you get around to it. Besides, if the cultural fit isn’t right, what’s the point? Cultural fit is what needs to be focused upon first and foremost. At this point I bet you’re wishing you had taken my advice earlier on and skipped back to step #1 and be done with it. Well, dream on, it’s too late for that now. (Note: technically it’s not too late, you can return to step #1 at any time).

Step #6 Map Self Assessment to Company Culture Assessment
The sixth and final step is the part that requires a modest attention to detail. First retrieve your self assessment document (don’t tell me you lost it; no more excuses already), then map each of your company culture observations to your self assessment listing. Don’t panic you can do this, though perhaps not competently though, which is why you should consider engaging a certified Company Culture Compatibility (CCC) Consultant such as myself. Yes, it’s expensive, and worth every penny and more. Company culture compatibility assessment is the last place to be penny wise and career foolish.

We can’t guarantee that you will find the perfect workplace that is 100% aligned with your every value and belief, but if you rigorously follow our patented 6-Step process you ought to eventually find an organization out there where the culture and your values can to some extent coexist. But why take a chance? Immediately contact a certified Company Culture Compatibility (CCC) Consultant such as myself, and leave your worries behind. Remember we’re not just talking about a job, we’re talking about your career.

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