Cultural Fit Is When Your Story Fits Their Story

Storytelling is one of the most crucial job-hunting skills. You can be a perfect fit on paper, you can be an engaging and personable interviewee, but if you can’t give real examples of how you would fit in with the hiring company, then more often than not you will be passed over for someone more “suitable”.

The British psychologist Adrian Furnham described cultural fit as

“a fit where there is congruence between the norms and the values of the organization and those of the person.”

Therefore, when you are going for an interview, it is well worth finding out all you can about the values of your future employer. Values can vary hugely from one company to another, but to give a specific example, one of the most innovative global companies in terms of hiring for cultural fit is the US shoe retailer Zappos. They have an incredibly well defined corporate culture, which is based on the following ten core values:

  • Deliver WOW Through Service
  • Embrace and Drive Change
  • Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
  • Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded
  • Pursue Growth and Learning
  • Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  • Do More With Less
  • Be Passionate and Determined
  • Be Humble

Zappos are very clear about their culture, but you should able to ascertain the values of most hiring companies in various ways. They may have a recruitment website, they may have a video for prospective employees, you can look at reviews on websites such as Glassdoor, check out their company culture pages on Talent Rocket or you can read the blogs of some of their employees (an increasingly good way to get the inside track). Pay particularly close attention to the language that they use. Each word will be carefully chosen for the desired effect, of that you can be sure.

Once you have understood their values, it is time for some introspection.

Looking at the 10 Zappos values, can you give examples from your career and your life, which reflect them? Do they excite you? Do you think “Hey, that sounds exactly like me!” If so, and if you are lucky enough to live in Las Vegas, maybe you should be giving them a call?

Cultural fit is about personality

It isn’t necessarily about being clones of each other, but it is about having a close enough affinity to the values to be able to get on with everyone else and work in the same way. People who say that they love their jobs seldom say it because of money or achievements – they utter the emotional word “love” because they feel emotionally bound to their company and their colleagues. This is the holy grail of any HR team.

So, getting back to storytelling. It is difficult to communicate your personality on a CV. You haven’t got the space to tell an engaging story. The recruiters don’t have time to read it. The interview however is made for taking your future employer on your journey….

Let the potential employer understand that you “get them.” There is nothing nicer than understanding that someone has taken the time to figure out what you are about. Base your personal stories around their values and always bring them back to how you would fit in.

Show how you have been flexible in the past and demonstrate that you care about your wider team. An employer’s values are never fully set in stone; they are entrusted to their employees, and the employees in turn gradually shape their future direction. In the best companies, values evolve organically with their employees.

Those who feel a close affinity with their employer’s culture will experience greater job satisfaction. They will remain longer and be promoted faster. They will be more committed to their role and lead teams in their own image.

Employers are spending increasing amounts of effort defining and refining their “cultural values.” If candidates spend equal amounts of effort understanding their own values, and how they fit in, then our workplaces will become far happier and more productive.