Am I a cultural fit?
August 13, 2012 | Jewish Tribune
When I call the interviewers following my interview and ask for feedback as to why I have not been hired, I’ve heard everything, including you are “overqualified” to “underqualified” to “you need Canadian experience” to “you have too much experience” to “you will not fit.” There always seems to be something against me. Yes, I am an internationally trained professional mechanical engineer! I have all the experience, skills, education and qualifications required in the job description!!! I have prepared extensively for the interview as well, including workshops, one-on-one practice with friends, with the JVS employment counselor, to name a few of my activities in my job search. What is wrong with me??? I am so upset after these conversations. Also, how come the interviewers will not tell me exactly what to do so I can improve and perhaps get the job offer? What does “you will not be a good fit” mean?
Steven, the Engineer
You can be sure that it is not you. If you read the Globe & Mail last weekend, Leah Eichler discusses the importance of corporate culture and how it plays a pivotal role in “determining an employee’s productivity” and I would go one step further and confirm that it can make or break the hiring decision. As the employment counselors at JVS advise, most interviewers will tell you what kind of culture the company has if you know how to read between the lines, and with careful observation, you will be able to answer most of the questions.
Each organization and company, just like families, have their own culture. This includes the company’s norms, values, how they spend their money and budgets, how they hire, their interview style, right down to the design of the interior and exteriors of their offices or buildings. Every company has a different style. For example, start-up IT companies will be fast moving, value creative, problem solving, and brainstorming. I’d go so far as to say they are probably “flat organizations” with little hierarchy and bureaucracy. Probably RIM started out this way. I know some companies whose HR managers use the ‘Balanced Scorecard’ performance review system. So, if you are someone who likes details, stable and predictable workplace environments, with lots of planning and organized workloads, this type of company may be the culture opposite of your natural style and will be a challenging place for you to work.
I do, however, guarantee you that it is very rare that an interviewer will give you the truth about the way you performed on the interview. The only solid feedback is that you did not get the job offer or receive a call for another interview or asked for your references. Meanwhile, the behavioural interview questions are usually designed to reflect the company’s culture.
You can have an idea of the company’s culture at which you are interviewing before you go on the interview and during. You can:
• Twitter other employees and ask questions about the dress code, the management style, the history of the company;
• Research other employees and company information on the website and LinkedIn. You can follow the company on LinkedIn as well. I would avoid asking to connect with LinkedIn contacts who are strangers. Investigate if you know anyone on LinkedIn who is connected to someone in your network and then ask your contact permission to call the employee; or just cold call the person yourself and ask for an information interview on the phone or in person
• Visit the actual offices of the interviewers. Peruse the décor, the art work, the floors, the marketing materials, brochures if you can. See if the employees are happy? Are the phones ringing? How’s the bathroom? Is it clean? Are the offices messy? Disorganized? Is it a corporate environment? What kind of computer stations are there for the employees? Do people work from home? You can ask these questions in an information interview or through Twitter as well.
• Research any media coverage or newsletters on the internet. Google is a great start, if the company does not have a website.
If you want to learn more about Organizational Culture, there is lots of information online and even Organizational Culture Assessment Tools. Meanwhile, pick up the clues and don’t ignore the interview questions like “do you have problems with working overtime and meeting tight deadlines? This question is a dead giveaway of a firm that will expect you to work long hours on short notice. Only you can decide if this is a workplace culture suitable for your temperament, career and interest.
Hope this helps.
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Joanna Samuels, B.A., B.Ed. is a certified Life Skills Coach, Career Management Fellow and Personality Dimensions Facilitator, who is a team lead of employer services and job developer/job coach at Jewish Vocational Services (JVS Toronto).
EMETemployment, a division of ©Jewish Vocational Service (JVS Toronto) is a free confidential employment support and referral service for job seekers from the Jewish community. In addition, EMETemployment offers employers recruitment services at no cost. For more information, visit www.emetemployment.ca.