Your job interview: understanding organisational culture & fit
It makes sense that all companies and potential employers want to hire people who are interested in the company and enthusiastic about the prospect of working there. Everyone wants to have staff that are committed and passionate about their work and the success of organisation. Hopefully, if you are applying for a position somewhere, these sentiments will be genuine.
To be enthusiastic and interested in the company, though, you do have to do your research and know more than a thing or two about it. So before your interview, it’s imperative that you do your homework! Do your investigation and make sure you cover important information such the organisation’s history, market position, strategy or focus, and products, services and specialties. Having knowledge in these areas will put you on the right foot when it comes to interview time.
Think about it this way, if you knew next to nothing about the company, and that fact became apparent, it’s likely you’ll come across as careless or even arrogant. (Read: excuse us for taking your time, your interests are obviously elsewhere.)
It is also essential to clearly demonstrate in your interview why you’re interested in the job, why you want to work for this company, what motivates you, and why it will suit you.
“Work culture is a combination of values, beliefs, attitudes, underlying assumptions and behaviours shared by employees in an organisation.”
Will you fit in to the work culture?
Fitting into the organisation’s culture is important for both the employer and for you. Work culture is a difficult thing to explain exactly, but it is a combination of values, beliefs, attitudes, underlying assumptions and behaviours shared by employees in an organisation.
All companies have a different style and culture, which translate into different ways of working and behaving. Once again, it’s important to do your research. Are they a very relaxed, casual company or does it seem more strict and formal? Do they value hard work over all else? Is further training and development supported and encouraged? What is the dress code? Are the hours set or is there some flexibility regarding work shifts? Do you see possibilities for promotion and career advancement?
When you have researched these questions as best as you can from available information, you can then make an assessment about how you might fit with this context. You will help the employer and yourself make the right decision about your suitability for the job by thinking about answering such questions as:
- What is my work style?
- How would I describe myself?
- Why would I fit into this company?
- What do I want to achieve in my working career – both short and long term
- What qualities make me a good team member?
Assessing whether the company is for you
Interviews are always a two-way street, but you should try not second guess the interview, or the feel that you will get for the company when speaking with people on the interview panel. If you go into the room with the attitude that the interviewers have to live up to your expectations, you’ll undoubtedly run into trouble. However, during and after the interview you can use the experience to think about whether the organisation will be the right fit for you. Questions you might want to consider to help you with this important decision include:
- Will the work and the organisation make the best use of my skill sets and experience?
- Will the organisation enable me to improve and grow in my career?
- Do the people appear to like me and appreciate my skills?
- Is the organisational culture suitable for me, enabling me to feel comfortable and to flourish in my career?
What if I get it wrong?
If you happen to accept a position, only to find out that the organisation is not a good fit for you, don’t stress too much. This will happen to most people at some stage over the course of their careers. Sometimes, despite our research, positive gut feelings, and our best intentions, the job we choose to accept isn’t quite what we thought it would be.
If this happens to you, there a few things that you should consider. The first is not to resign quickly. A spur of the moment decision, could leave you with a hard to explain departure on your resume, and the hiring company may give negative feedback about you to future recruiters. Instead, it is best to stay for a reasonable period of time, work hard, and do your best to fit in to the new workplace. Sometimes it does take a while to acclimatise in your new job and for them to get used to you too.
If, after six months or more, you still feel that the organisation is not a good fit, you can start looking for a new position. This time, however, you will be that little bit more experienced and savvy when it comes to understanding organisational culture and what works for you.