Cultural Fit Matters

What if I told you, as a job candidate, that besides a skills and experience checklist, you’re also being measured by a cultural fit cheat sheet? And sometimes it will take three or four interviews for a company to figure it all out?

CEO, Kristine Steuart reveals some of those behind-the-scenes team-building details in her latest post for the Allocadia Leading in Change Series. In it, Steuart describes the process her and her partners stick to when bringing new people on board (a timely topic, considering their recent appointment of SAP-vet, James Thomas, to the role of Chief Marketing Officer).

When I read the post, I couldn’t wait to point out a few of the big candidate a-ha’s I saw in her post. I’ve seen one too many marketers nearly at their wit’s end in the midst of a complex recruiting process. The problem? They think the drawn out hiring process is all about them (and their perceived shortcomings), when in fact, it’s all about the company.

The long and the short of it is this: if you are applying for jobs in a vacuum of skills & qualifications -i.e. if you are forgetting about the goals, culture and people of an organization – than you are doing nothing to prove your fit. Here’s what you can learn from Allocadia’s hiring process – and how it translates to your own “cultural fit cheat sheet” for getting the job:

  1. Don’t be shy about working within your network (they are working within theirs)

How can you compete with the friend of a trusted friend who’s got the skills and already passed the pre-screen test of someone they wouldn’t mind eating lunch with? You can’t. The job goes to them. When candidates ask me if it would be too pushy/presumptuous to let a past colleague/acquaintance know they’re applying for a role, I tell them: no, no and no! Steuart admits that every member of the Allocadia Leadership Team is someone from her or her partner’s network. If you have a positive contact in a similar industry or just know someone-who-knows-someone, establish that connection. It creates an initial “trust” in your abilities, and trust is an accelerator.

  1. Don’t treat diligence as inconvenience

Push back to psychometric testing or a less-than-enthusiastic approach to follow-up projects are major red flags for employers. I think some candidates feel thrown off-guard when they’re asked to complete such tasks as part of the recruitment process – as though they are being made to go through unnecessary hoops.

A transparent recruitment process from step one helps ease some of that discomfort, so don’t forget to ask about their hiring steps. Steuart lays out the Allocadia process clearly: besides involving others in the hiring process to get a second opinion (expect more than one interview), they also “conduct “tests” for new candidates (all sales candidates do a sales demo based on a mock situation, engineers do an engineering test, marketers do a writing test, etc)” and always check references.

  1.  Don’t leave without addressing cultural fit

In my opinion, there’s a moment in every interview when you either know you’ve got “the one” or you definitely don’t. Sure, part of that is being able to see how a person’s skill set fits, but another part is that sudden flash when you can see them in the weekly staff meeting – and it feels natural. Hiring managers look for a cultural fit (Allocadia uses a core competency cheat sheet) and you should too; after all, it’s your job to prove one. Bring your wider-view thinking about how and where you can contribute to the current make-up of the company and carve out some time in your interview session to understand how they’d fit with you. Use the results of personality assessments like Gallup’s StrengthsFinder to help you understand and articulate the particular strengths you bring to a team – as a member and a leader.

Both candidates and employers begin with a vision of where they’ll end up, but the path to get there (and the final picture) are not always what’s expected.  And for most companies, especially those in a high-growth phase like Allocadia, the full gamut of candidate consideration takes time – and likely more than one opinion. When applying for job, thoroughly research the company and the role, but don’t forget one other important aspect: the team. If you can help the hiring manager to “see” you as you’d fit into the existing or emerging team – it can play a crucial role in their end decision.