When Choosing a Job, Culture Matters

Culture is a huge deal to us at IDR. It is a part of every one of us who works here. Today I was reading an article that really dug deep into some important factors when choosing a job. The article brought up three questions:

1. What should I learn? Understand the organization’s purpose — not just what they say they’re doing, but also how their purpose leads to decisions and what makes them proud. Learn how the organization operates. For example, consider the importance of performance, how the organization gets things done, the level of teamwork, the quality of the people, how people communicate, and any ethical issues.

Except for ethical issues, there’s no absolute standard of what’s best in organizational culture. Different purposes and different organizational features can be more or less appealing to different people. When you understand how the potential employer operates, you’ll need to consider how well that matches your goals. Your target organizational culture is an important part of your aspirations.

2. How should I learn? Read everything you can find about the institution, but read with a critical eye. Institutions have formal vision statements, and they often mention cultural topics in other public reports, but these documents are written with a purpose in mind. Independent writers take an independent perspective. They can be more critical, but they can miss details and get things wrong.

Discuss culture with people in the organization. You’ll talk to people in the interviewing process, of course. But you may learn different things if you meet others there who aren’t involved in your recruiting process. Also talk to people outside the organization who know it — customers, suppliers, partners, and ex-employees. Their different experiences with the institution will affect their views, so ask about situations where they’ve seen the culture in action.

3. When should I learn? It’s hard to learn about culture at an early stage in your search. But your impressions can guide you to target some institutions and avoid others.

Culture may come up in job interviews, although it may be complicated to do much investigation when you’re trying to sell yourself. People sometimes worry that discussing culture might make people uncomfortable and put a job offer at risk. The culture topic is certainly not off-base, and it is necessary to know for future growth in the company. Hiring managers should expect it. Whether it’s in interviews or after you have an offer, you’ll do best if your questions show you’re learning rapidly about the organization, taking the employer’s perspective, and beginning to figure out how to succeed there. Culture questions can cast you in a positive light. Sean’s line of questioning confirmed the CEO’s judgment to hire him, even if Sean didn’t like the answers.

What’s your view of how culture affects the job search? Has culture played a part in how you choose your future employer?

(HT: Harvard Business Review)