How to Let Your Interviewer Know You’re a Perfect Cultural Fit

Let’s say that you’re a top-flight programmer, but you’ve decided that you’re not going to work just anywhere.  After figuring out exactly what you wanted to do, you took the time to do additional research and figure out precisely where you wanted to do it.

The problem remains, however, that even after you know that a prospective employer has an employee gymnasium, quiet rooms where you can grab a quick nap during the day to refresh your mind, an espresso machine, an open-door policy for all executives, and a convivial atmosphere where everyone’s ideas are accepted openly, you still have to convince them that you fit their perceptions of a good employee.  How do you do that?

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Don’t Oversell Your Enthusiasm

The temptation may be to fawn over the company’s product line or services; to gush over the importance it has in your daily life. However, they already have customers who love their product; what they need is someone who is going to extend their product line, enhance the public’s perception, or improve their current offerings.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you use their products regularly; you must demonstrate that you not only desire to improve their offerings, but that you have the skill to do so, while fitting into their community structure.  According to a 2014 survey, HR people are now paying considerably more attention to that last category.

For example, while the CEO of AVON® is Sheri McCoy, 75% of the CxOs, 65% of the Board, and 60% of the Management Committee are male.  AVON’s male-focused product line is relatively small, so why are men overrepresented?  Simple—they persuaded someone at the hiring level that they could integrate with the company in a positive way, and make a difference.

An Emotional Connection

Being passionate about the company’s objectives, and then backing that up with a plan for how you are going to further them, is a key success factor.  If you can describe the challenges an employee is likely to face, and have a plan for dealing with them, you’re already one-step-up on the competition.  By showing them that you’re going to add value, and not require a great deal of handholding, you become a valuable asset.

Moreover, integration is not restricted to day-to-day business.  If part of the company culture involves donating laptops to under-financed schools or toward scholarships for kids to attend college, mention that you’re aware of it.  You can even outline some plans for your own ideas to enhance the effectiveness of their projects.  Make clear to the interviewer that you want to work for the company and further all of its goals.

Fit In

There aren’t many companies that value the lone-wolf approach (if that’s your style, and you found a company like that, congratulations).  Most companies prefer integration and teamwork, so when you’re talking about solving a problem, use the word “we” more frequently than you use the pronouns “I” or “me”.

Nevertheless, if a large part of your job is interacting with customers, make sure you emphasize that a happy customer is a valuable repeat customer.  Without them, “we” wouldn’t even be in business (yes, you slyly included yourself as part of the company team there, helping the interviewer to think of you that way, too).

Don’t be a Drone

You don’t have to toe the party line.  Interviewers, if they are sensible, are not looking for a new best friend.  If you’re in the right sort of cultural environment you are often appreciated if you have a different way of thinking about problems.  It can be a very attractive feature.

Different approaches to problem solving can be a huge benefit to a company.  Getting people to think about new approaches to problem-solving can banish longstanding hang-ups and bottlenecks; it can provide new “Eureka!” moments that could completely change the way a company does business.

Admittedly, it’s the job of the employee to conform to the corporate culture.  Expecting to stand it on its head and make it do your bidding is unrealistic.  But there’s little harm in being different, and often large benefits.

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The Takeaway

Cynics tell us “Sincerity is great; once you can fake that, you’ve got it made”, but the truth is, as Abraham Lincoln pointed out, “You can fool some of the people some of the time…”  Even if you succeed, you won’t be happy, won’t do a good job, and you’ll be looking for something new in very short order.

If you find the place where you belong—the place you truly want to be—treat it seriously and show them that you fit, and not just that you want the job.  Anything else is just self-sabotage.

More from Stewart Cooper & Coon:  Who’s Interviewing Whom: Valuable Tips for Job Interviews

 

Fred Coon, CEO 

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