A company might look wonderful on paper but your assessment of your ability to fit into their culture is as important as their assessment of you. For women the challenge can be even greater trying to work out if organisations which are generally male coded will meet their needs. But there are a number of ways you can establish if the job is right for you and if there will be a good cultural fit. It’s not all a one way street.
How to assess cultural fit when applying for a new job
At one time we used to look on Google or at a company’s annual report. Now there are lots of other ways women can research the culture of an organisation. Social proofing sites such as InHerSight and FairyGodBoss publish feedback from employees give good insights into how organisations treat women specifically. Check them out. Still in their infancy they are sure to grow and play an important role in employer branding on the market. Do general research about the number of women in senior and middle roles. Establish if they seem to have any sticking points. Most organisations do. Look at their social media accounts – what is your impression?
Contact existing employees in your network and ask them for input. Rather than straight yes/no questions about cultural fit, make your queries open-ended to get the best and most detailed responses. Ask about communication and management style, how feedback is given, how the organisation views childcare issues and how they define and reward success are all good tells on the sub-text of an organisation.
Be mindful of your candidate experience. Is the documentation thorough and gender neutral? How were you handled at reception and by the interviewers. One candidate was less impressed because she was expected to pay for her own coffee while waiting for her interviewer at a Fortune 500 company. Another spent 60 hours in interviews and by the time she had completed the process and received an offer, she had a different opportunity elsewhere. She also wondered if the overly long process was a reflection on their decision-making style. Had they gone from being thorough to indecisive? The result was that she didn’t feel 100% comfortable.
In an interview some of the key information is via non-verbal observations. Look at the offices, the cafeteria and the general atmosphere. Is there a buzz? Is it quiet? How do your interviewers interact with each other? Is there an atmosphere of respect? One candidate self-deselected because the interviewer was unprepared, didn’t know her name and had not read her CV. Others have concerns about the male tone of some offices which can be evident in the decor, break out rooms or the pictures on the wall. Bottom line – can you imagine yourself there?
Now is the time to ask searching questions about training and mentoring opportunities to monitor how the company invests in its employees. What is their promotion process and what is their position on diversity? How does it work in practise? Many companies have a bottleneck at middle management level. How do they deal with that?
Most women have concerns about asking questions such as these because they fear being branded as some sort of militant feminist. The reality is that although the organisation might seem great in theory, to accept a job which is not in line with your values will set you up for future discontent. Remember almost three-quarters of the work force claim to be disengaged. Do you want to be in that number?
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