With 43% of hiring managers ranking “cultural fit” as the top factor when making hiring decisions, tech industry giants and early-stage startups are seeking not only the best tech talent, but the perfect personality match.
But with Uber recently admitting that its aggressive company culture is endangering its IPO filing, and “culture fit” garnering notoriety as a way to disguise discrimination in the hiring process, how can you find the right culture fit and land your dream job?
Below, we’ve gathered the best tips for making sure a company’s culture aligns with your goals, values and interests—as well as the secrets behind how hiring managers assess candidates’ personalities and how you can prove you’re the right fit during the interview process.
1. Understand what “culture fit” really means
Being a good culture fit isn’t just about whether you like playing ping pong in the office in flip flops, or want to work a traditional 9 to 5 in a suit and tie environment. It’s subjective and can mean something different at each company.
Some companies unintentionally sacrifice diversity by hiring people who remind them of themselves, commonly seen in the “beer test,” where interviewers base their hiring decisions on whether they’d want to have a beer with the candidate after work. When this kind of bias comes into play, it’s often under the guise of culture fit.
Other times, interviewing for culture fit is a legitimate and effective way to find the right candidate. For example, Atlassian, a collaboration software company, has a “values interview” where they test candidates on their alignment with the company’s core values. This is to make sure they’re hiring open, honest and passionate people. Atlassian has even turned down great coders who don’t possess these key traits.
2. Wear enthusiasm on your sleeve
Companies want to hire people who are excited about what they do. A genius candidate with an innate ability to crush any logic problem and write the most complex algorithms may also be unfriendly and clearly only chasing a paycheck without having any real interest in the company. A good programmer, on the other hand, who is not technically brilliant but genuinely cares about the company’s mission, goals and values will almost certainly be the better employee.
How to prove you’re excited? Research the company ahead of time to pinpoint what they care about, and come up with a list of questions you can ask to show your enthusiasm. Tailor your questions and attitude to the specific company you’re interviewing with to show off your passion for what the company does.
3. Highlight your soft skills
Hiring managers assess soft skills because they often translate to a candidate’s ability to interact effectively with teammates, drive real business value and fit in with the work environment.
These skills include communication abilities, emotional intelligence, willingness to learn and collaboration skills among many others. Play up your soft skills during an interview to show the value you can contribute in the workplace beyond your programming chops.
4. Pinpoint the specific traits a company is looking for
Most companies make specific, intentional choices about the characteristics and qualities they’re looking for in candidates. Some value friendliness and compassion above educational background and experience. Employee-empowered companies may be looking for entrepreneurial-minded candidates who like working autonomously.
Find the intentional traits a company is looking for by browsing their website, social media and blog. Look at the job description to determine what the company’s ideal candidate looks like and keep those traits in mind during the interview process. For example, Whole Foods looks for people who are creative, willing to learn and believe strongly in their mission—and people with these traits stand out from the rest.
5. Make a good first impression
Interviewers, especially in the tech industry, often rely on gut feeling. In fact, some studies suggest that employers make hiring decisions within the first 90 seconds of an interview.
And while you can’t change the hiring manager’s gut reaction (or their cognitive biases), you can do your best to come across as friendly, knowledgeable and willing to learn within the first 90 seconds to make a killer first impression.
6. Build commonalities with your interviewer
Whether they realize it or not, people want to hire people who are like them, so build commonalities with your interviewer (such as similar interests, backgrounds, etc.)—but be careful not to change your personality just to fit in. You’re interviewing the company just as much as they’re interviewing you, so don’t act unlike yourself just to get the job—you might regret it later.
You don’t have to ooze charisma to land your dream job, but it helps to match yourself closely to the company’s mission and values and avoid being a jerk.
7. Assess whether you’ll fit in with the company culture
Meshing well with the company’s culture gives you a higher chance of being happy and successful at work, so don’t underestimate it. Before going into an interview, think about your own personality, preferred work environment and lifestyle.
Do you thrive in high-pressure work cultures, or do you find that kind of environment exhausting and draining? Do you agree with the company’s mission and values? Does the company provide all of the benefits you’re looking for?
During your interview, pay attention to the office life. If you prefer a casual, collaborative work environment, seeing a sea of suits and ties and cubicles may be a red flag. Remember, if you don’t think you’re culturally compatible with a company, it might be time to pursue a different opportunity at a company you can fully get behind.
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