If you’ve lost your job or feel it’s on the cards, now could be an opportune time to consider what you really want with your career. For some it’s straight money. For some it’s a better cultural fit.

Cultural fit is key to performing at the top of your game. It motivates you to bounce out of bed every day and contributes to happiness at work. It’s a ‘comfy soft spot’, a driver that makes you thrive.

What is cultural fit?

Cultural fit is when your core beliefs, values and attitudes line up with those of your oganisation. It’s when you’re comfortable with your organisation’s way of operating—its ethos, attitudes and aspirations.

The challenge for many jobseekers is finding a position that works for overall job satisfaction through cultural fit. How you go about this is critical. Here are three essential steps.

  1. Talk to a recruiter and define what you want

Our recruiters excel at drawing out jobseeker desires and beliefs by asking: ‘What’s your story?’ Skilled recruiters have useful perspectives on culture and whether you’ll be a fit or a mismatch. They’ll help you tease out the workplace atmosphere you’re craving, with options being:

  • competitive and fast paced
  • lively and collaborative
  • top down or inclusive
  • individual focus or team structure
  • hierarchical or flat structure.

Once you define what you want, your recruiter can help reflect this in your resume and LinkedIn profile.

  1. Do your research with prospective employers

This is always important, but especially if you want work in a new area or sector.

A great place to start is online. Explore what a potential employer showcases about culture on their website and through social media. Check out their vision, mission and values. Determine how these align with your beliefs.

When researching, bear in mind these types of questions:

  • Who does the organisation serve?
  • What are its personality traits? Highly competitive and driven strictly by key performance indicators and number crunching or more social in approach?
  • What is the management style?
  • How does the organisation recognise and reward employee performance?
  • Is the organisation a good corporate citizen? Does it give back to community?
  • Does the organisation care about the environment?

Also assess images and overall presentation online:

  • Does the organisation portray a clinical or warm personality?
  • What does the team look like—relaxed or formal?
  • Is there evidence of collaboration or celebration?

You can also search the company name online to suss out media coverage, positive and/or negative.

  1. Develop questions around company culture to ask at interview

If working through a recruiter, chat about questions that are appropriate for you to ask in an interview, bearing in mind you should never take over or totally dominate.

Lean on your research to inform the best cultural-fit questions but avoid asking the obvious. For example, if the vision is already clear on the website, there’s little point in asking what the company vision is (you’ll look like you haven’t done your homework).

DON’T ASK: Can you explain what your vision is?

DO ASK: I’ve read your vision on your website. Can you give me an example of how this translates into your culture?

Here are other questions you shouldn’t be afraid to ask:

  • How does your team celebrate a big win?
  • What measures are in place to handle high-stress situations?
  • What achievements would you expect of me in the first three months?
  • Do you have regular performance appraisals?
  • How will I know if I am or am not performing against expectations?
  • Why do you like working here?

Final tips

  • Consider your previous positions, assess what made you happiest about that position and bear this in mind with your next career move.
  • If you’re in a job that makes you miserable, you likely don’t have a great cultural fit.
  • Remember being a cultural mismatch can lead to stress, major anxiety and even illness. It’s not healthy to stay in such a position for long.
  • Trust your instincts. If you’re uneasy observing how your organisation operates and even worry about its ethical base, it’s time to contact a recruiter, get registered and move on.

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