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Culture Matters. In Yogurt. And in Your Job Search.

If you want to make healthy and great tasting yogurt, you need to start with live yogurt cultures. If you're going to build a successful business, you need to continually invest in the growth and sustainability of your company culture. And if you want to be successful in your job search, you need to focus on the culture of the companies you are targeting for employment. I love yogurt, but I am not a food scientist. I am a career coach, so I am going to focus this article on the latter two topics.

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend Bring in Your Parents Day (BIYP) at LinkedIn’s NYC office this past week. If you are not sure exactly what BIYP day is at LinkedIn, think a grown-up version of high school open-house for your son or daughter. BIYP day at LinkedIn was an opportunity to learn more about the LinkedIn mission, the LinkedIn platform, and the organization’s business model. Most importantly, it was an opportunity to experience the LinkedIn company culture first hand. My two takeaways from this fantastic day:

  1. I was born about 35 years too early. If I were in my early 20’s again, LinkedIn would be at the top of my list of companies where I would want to work and build a career.

  2. I can see a clear connection between LinkedIn’s mission, financial growth trajectory, and the company culture. LinkedIn’s mission is straightforward: “Connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” You can’t help your customers and grow your business if you don’t first support your employees. LinkedIn’s company culture appears to be purpose-built to achieve that objective.

So, I had a fun day and ate way too much in an amazing employee cafeteria. What does that have to do with your job search? Everything. Company culture plays a pivotal role at several steps along the path in your job search process.

Self-Assessment: Before you start the job search process, you need to look at yourself in the mirror and do an honest self-assessment of your goals, skills and value proposition. The better you know yourself, the more clearly you will be able to identify the types of companies, work environment, and culture best aligned with your approach to work. For example, if you do your best work as a solo practitioner, you may want to deselect organizations that place a premium on team engagement.

Interview Preparation: In a job search, the candidate that is the most prepared and has done the homework is the one that will not soon be forgotten and will likely advance in the hiring process. Completing in-depth research on the company culture will positively impact your interview performance in many areas.

  • Customizing your elevator pitch to best fit with the company culture and values.

  • Tailoring your resume and cover letter with relevant keywords, skills, and experience to mirror the target company culture.

  • Adapting your answers to standard interview questions to align more closely with the company culture.

  • Selecting STAR stories (Situation, Task, Action, Result) that promote your ability to contribute to the company culture.

  • Even selecting how to dress for your interviews. A safe approach is always to dress one level above the company culture.

Recruiter/Screening Interviews: The primary goal for a screening interview is to narrow a large pool of applicants down to a manageable number (typically 10 or less) of viable candidates for a specific job posting. The filters most commonly used to determine a match for the position include candidate skill set, prior experience, income requirements and fit with company culture.

Hiring Manager Interview: The hiring manager interview is the last stop on the selection process train. Culture and team fit are essential hiring criteria for the decision maker to evaluate in the hiring process. Interview questions at this phase of the hiring process are designed to assess how well you will integrate into the organizational culture and how much you can contribute to team performance.

Evaluating the Job Offer: There is more to evaluating a job offer than just salary and benefits. In your interview preparation, you completed research on the culture of your target organization. Having completed the interview and hiring process, you now have a more in-depth and realistic view of the organizational culture in which you will work every day. You need to evaluate if that enhanced view matches up and reinforces your initial research. You need to be proud to tell others that you work for this organization after accepting the job offer.

Yogurt is made by fermenting milk with a yogurt culture. Without the bacteria (aka the yogurt culture) you will never get the yogurt that we like to eat every day. Companies are built by employees dedicated to a shared vision and mission. The culture of the company is what attracts and retains those valuable employees. As you execute your successful job search, stay mindful of the role that culture plays in determining where you will land that job and further your career.


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