Monday, May 3, 2010


I am in touch with a number of job seekers and share the standard, what is seemingly helpful information on job searching.  But one component of the job search is a little dicey, a little tricky, harder to navigate.  How do you as job seekers discern and determine culture?  

I think the culture of the organization is often a key component for applicants to understand and yet, there is no outline or data sheet or Linked In profile on culture.  When my husband started his job at local engineering firm, he certainly was capable of doing the job.  What took longer was understanding the culture - how work got done IRL as opposed to documents and workflow, procedures and manuals.  The true learning that took place was synthesizing all the people, historical knowledge, key holders and road blocks.  The work was the easy part.  

I have a good friend who works for a on the surface highly-respected company.  But the actual day-to-day experience for some is awful.  The culture is stifling and paternalistic; women are expected to wear skirts and hose; men are not allowed to wear jewelry other than wedding rings and watches.  For some this may not be too bad (other than illegal) but one may not want to quit a current to take a position in a company such as this.  

So how would you gather what could be critical information - unless you knew someone who worked there?  Where can you get this kind of information?  I am curious if any of your companies incorporate norms, traditions - culture - into your hiring process?  Of do you wait for onboarding and orientation?  If you are a job seeker, how do you scope out the culture of a potential employer?    

Such questions for a Monday.  


Steve Boese said...

Those are great questions I think. They underscore the importance of developing your own network in your industry, region, or specialty more fully, to the extent which while you may not personally know someone at the target organization, you can dramatically increase the chances that someone you know knows someone there. Certainly not foolproof, but at least more of a shot. The job is often not about the job, at least not entirely. All that surrounds the job can make or break the experience for sure.

Great post!

Jennifer V. Miller said...


"Cultural fit" is such an important part of creating an engaged workforce and I believe it falls to both the job seeker *and* the employer to ensure there's a good fit. One of the most innovative approaches I've heard about comes from (no suprise) Zappos. They put all employees through a 2-week on-boarding process. If after that two weeks, a new hire doesn't feel that he/she has made a good choice, Zappos pays them a bonus to leave the company.

Deirdre said...

Thank you both for your comments. Steve, I have been telling people to really use LinkedIn to find people they can try and connect with .. of course 'cold calling' has its own issues.

Jennifer, that's an incredible story on Zappos. I bet their hiring process is pretty darn good.

Ted said...

Great post and I agree that culture is one of the key determinants of work happiness/excitement. We are seeing a lot of young people start off in some type of freelance role to test the cultural waters (both sides) - not a bad idea in my opinion.