Ace an Interview by Understanding Corporate Culture
Clients often ask me how they can be most prepared for an interview. I tell them to be prepared to answer questions in a behavioral manner even if the interviewer isn’t asking behavioral questions. I tell them to read the job description carefully and define the skill set that is required; and to know which of those skills, specifically, they can elaborate on in the interview.
I talk to my clients about how to dress for the interview, how to slowly mimic the interviewer in a subtle way to establish rapport. I tell my clients all the standard things that a career coach shares with a client regarding an interview.
However, with the job market as tight as it is today, and with the competitiveness of those in line for those jobs, there is an extra piece of advice that I give to my clients. I tell them to not only research the company its mission, values and corporate strategy; I tell them to research the culture. I do this because when the competition is tough, and it comes down to two candidates with a similar skill set, a smart employer will choose the one that he or she feels will best fit with the culture. A strong cultural fit will do more for retention and long term success than either skills or experience.
The Hidden Gems
The culture of an organization involves the unspoken rules, the way people interact, the qualities that the employees value. The true culture is not something that you can read about on the website. It lives with the employees in their day to day interactions. It is the way employees judge one another and how they work together. Unfortunately it is very difficult to learn about a corporate culture before an interview, but you can catch a glimpse.
If you know any employees at the organization you can start by chatting with them. Don’t ask them questions about the financial stability of the company or about the benefits. Ask them what they would change if they could change one thing about their work. Ask them where most people eat lunch, is it at their desk or do they congregate? Ask them to describe their co-workers as co-workers and then again as individuals.
You can look at the Facebook pages of employees to see if their posts are normally positive or negative when discussing work. You can review the LinkedIn profiles of the employees. Does this company seem to hire the same “types” of people? Are they all listing the same books on their reading lists? Do they all seem to have the same types of previous employment? Do they all come from huge corporations or does the company appear to hire from smaller businesses?
You can also learn about the culture of the organization by reading their press releases. What is the mood of the release? Is the language always formal or do they seem more laid back? You can get a hint about the culture by reviewing the recruiting section of the website. A company that is promoting work life balance as a reason to join their team may have a very different culture than a company whose main selling point is their 401k.
Understanding these nuances will help you be “liked” at the interview. The interviewer will view you as someone they can work with, someone who will fit in. And understanding these nuances may be just the edge you need to ace the interview and walk away with the position.