The sneaky way to beat the competition in the job search
When it comes to hiring, human resources types and hiring managers are looking for one thing aside from the skills and qualifications required to do the job. Some even say this one thing is even more important than skills and qualifications.
What is it? Cultural fit.
As a job seeker, you really need to know that HR people are all about this. I recently attended a human resources conference where HR people spent the day talking about HR things – hiring, employer branding, employee motivation – and pretty much everything came down to company culture. They are obsessed with it.
What does it mean? Different things to different people. Smart hiring managers use it to mean a team of employees with good communications and people skills who work well together and have some things in common. Less smart managers use it to mean a team of employees who all like the same things, dress similarly, and have the same ideas and views. Most, in fairness, probably fall somewhere in between – but essentially they tend to look for people with similar fashion sense, interests, etc. A friend of mine once wore a business suit to an interview in an office where everyone was wearing jeans. She knew immediately from the interviewer’s reaction that she wasn’t getting the job. I know of another company that asks candidates to rap the theme song from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
I think this is a silly way to hire people. But it doesn’t matter what I think. If you don’t fit in with the company culture you are pretty much dead in the water as a job candidate.
So, if you want to dramatically increase your chances of getting the jobs, research the company culture before you go in for an interview.
Find out about the dress code, what the employee demographics are, whether the work environment is fun and relaxed or more buttoned up – and what “fun” means in context. Is it volunteering at a food bank, a corporate paintball afternoon, or are they drunk and singing karaoke by 2 pm on Fridays? Are they socially conscious? Are they sports fans? Gather as much information as possible.
Then you can figure out how to show that you fit in. You might have to decide how far you want to go to fake it or, conversely, you might decide you’re not a fit for the job after all. Like, say you’re a vegan animal rights activist and their annual team building retreat is an endangered species big-game hunting trip. At least you won’t have wasted your time.
Here are seven ways to research the company culture.
Glassdoor: Check out company pages and company reviews on Glassdoor. Here you can contrast how an organization presents its employer brand – if they have their own employer page – with what actual employees say about the workplace in anonymous reviews.
Tap your social network: You might know people who work there or have worked there in the past, particularly if you have friends in the same industry as you and if your network is large. Check your LinkedIn contacts as well as your Twitter and Facebook friends – and those on any other social media. Send a message saying you’ve got an interview and are wondering what it’s like to work there. Most people want to be helpful and will tell you what you want to know. See who is Tweeting about the company and what they are saying.
Check the company website: You will be doing this anyway, of course, when researching the company and role. While finding out what the business does and what the job entails, see what the workplace looks like in pictures, read the mission statement, check for corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Google. Google the company and find out everything you can. See if they’re in the news. Are they innovative and exciting? Are they hipsters or middle-aged ladies? Who is the CEO or president? What do they look like? What is important to them?
YouTube. See if the company has a YouTube channel. Often they will have a “Come work for us!” type video showcasing the workplace.
Pretend you’re taking a survey. Be sneaky. Call up reception or send a message from an invented Gmail address and say you’re from some imaginary fashion website and that you’re doing a story on what business casual means in different industries. Ask what people wear to work in the office. Note: hide your phone number and if you get passed off to a media relations department, abort mission. It might work, though.
Go there. Go check out the offices. Hang around outside and have a coffee and watch employees come and go. This won’t work if the office is in a 20-story building and you don’t know where people are coming and going from but it will in other situations.
Sure that might seems extreme to some. But if you want the job, you’ll work for it.
I’m sure you can come up with your sleuthing ideas. Let us now if you think of any great ones.
Good luck, Sherlocks.