“Will this job make me look good?” — I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this question being asked by clients, friends, and colleagues who seek advice on whether to proceed in a recruitment process or not. Unfortunately, I’ve rarely seen anyone, myself included, thrive in a role where decision-making was primarily based on this question.
Instead, we should ask ourselves “will this job let me be myself?”. Because the roles we love and the company we stay at, are the ones with values that resonate with our own, and a culture that honors and enhances the skills and traits we carry.
I’ve witnessed new hires’ (again, including myself here) excitement fade after the sweet 6 months honeymoon at their new company, to then slowly become bored, stressed, insecure, and/or anxious until the point where they decide to opt out after a year or two. Why? Because it’s exhausting to bring your best self and excel in an organization that conflicts with your values.
No one would freely walk into such a trap, but what we tend to overlook when we’re accepting a job offer is the company’s values and culture, and how it resonates with our own beliefs.
Here are some ways to prepare for a proper company value due diligence:
1. Learn about yourself
When identifying if your potential employer shares your values, it helps to know what values are most important to you. Consider what attributes you have appreciated or disliked at your previous workplaces, e.g. honesty, transparency, service, structure. Try to come up with examples of when and how you’ve been affected by these values and how you’ve used them as guidance in different situations. Using your own experience will make it easier to ask an interviewer direct questions that will let you evaluate whether you share the same view or not.
2. Do your research
Early in the process, do proper research. Start with the company website and LinkedIn, how do they present themselves as employers? Do they have a diverse leadership team? Does their mission statement bring up aspects important to you?
Via LinkedIn, you can easily check if you are connected to someone in the staff. Reach out and ask for their point of view.
3. Be authentic during the interview
We prepare and train to provide the “right” answers in an interview. You should of course be able to pitch and promote your most relevant experiences but altering your authentic self will only put you in a situation that you won’t be able to uphold in the long run. Stay true to your moral compass and evaluate how the interviewer responds to it.
4. Ask direct questions
Prepare a couple of open-ended questions to ask the interviewer regarding culture and organizational behavior. Hiring managers and HR are often in sales mode and programmed to repeat the company pitch along with its values, but to fully understand how a company lives by them requires actual examples. Avoid leading or confirmation questions such as “how do you practice openness at this firm?”. Instead, choose behavioral questions that are more revealing of the everyday work:
a. What does success mean in this role? Who has done well in a similar role and why?
b. What performance metrics are used and what qualities are valued in a promotion situation?
c. How has the culture evolved? Which of the values have you had to work harder on maintaining, and why?
d. What impression did you have of the firm when you started and were there any misconceptions that surprised you once you started? What do you wish you had known when you started here?
5. Evaluate properly
If it’s possible, try asking similar questions to several people to compare and find patterns. Revisit your core values and see how often they show up in the conversation with your interviewers, or if behaviors that speak in contrast to them seem common. A rock-solid calibration doesn’t exist but it’s more likely that you will come closer to the full picture of what it’s like working at a company if you get a broader view.
Bottom line: The average person spends about 90 000 hours working over a lifetime. That’s a way too long time to be in a place where you must compromise with your beliefs and values. Everyone experiences dissatisfaction at work at some point or another, but to work along a constant collision path with your workplace is paralyzing. Don’t try to fit into someone else’s frame of how you’re supposed to be. Find a company that fits into yours.
Hedvig Öster — Talent & Communication Advisor at Exparang
About Exparang. Exparang opens doors for personalised career opportunities and unbiased candidate sourcing in the global market for board, executive and other high impact positions.
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About Hedvig Öster. Hedvig works as writer and consultant to Exparang and is the founder and CEO of People Equity, a strategy and communication consultancy helping companies with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Talent Management, communication and recruitment strategy, workshops and talks as well as leadership and career coaching.