Most of us can agree that company culture isn’t just the cherry on top anymore; it’s a much more important part of the sundae. We want a job that reflects our values, we want a sense of community, and we want a career that has meaning beyond just paying the bills.
Strong values are playing a much bigger role in the workplace than they did for our parents, and, really, it makes perfect sense. When you spend more time at work than you do at home, why wouldn’t you want to be in an environment that trusts and values you?
The good news is that employers are starting to pick up what the workforce is putting down. In an increasingly competitive job market, they know that if they don’t take the time to invest in company culture, they’ll lose top performers to companies that do.
The bad news is that getting a foot in the door at a values-driven company can be pretty darn competitive. But there are ways to stand out in the crowd and prove that you deserve a seat at the table.
Double down on your research efforts.
It’s not enough to read the company’s “About us” section. Follow the company blog, analyze its site to pieces, dig up and dive into their content marketing efforts. Then check out their Glassdoor profile to read what current and former employees say. Research articles the CEO or any of the company’s key stakeholders have written for other publications. Follow the company on social media, and dissect the employer brand.
A company that has done a lot of work to craft its values to reflect the company goals has likely also done a lot of work to spread that message. Your job is to discover what that message truly is and showcase how you and your goals align with that company’s goals, which tells the hiring manager this is a good fit for the both of you.
Avoid generic questions and answers.
Asking generic questions gives the impression that you’re a generic candidate. Asking specific questions shows you’ve actually thought about how to succeed in the position. For example, don’t ask, “Can you describe your company culture to me?” Rather, ask: “From your website, it seems like you have a very open and collaborative environment. Can you describe to me how teamwork and collaboration play out day-to-day?”
The first question reveals you didn’t take the time to check out the company and its content prior to the interview, while the second question shows you’ve done your homework.
Also, be specific about how your skills translate to that kind of environment. Instead of saying, “I work really well as a part of a team,” give a detailed example about how you work collaboratively and how your role led to the team’s success at a previous job. And don’t worry: It’s not bragging. Highlighting your successes makes it easy for the recruiter or hiring manager to see why you’re the most qualified. It’s your chance to showcase your skills — take it!
Remember, it’s not just about “fun.”
Employers want to hear that you have a deeper connection to their company culture than “It looks really fun to work here!” Don’t get me wrong; working at companies like Influence & Co. with amazing cultures is fun. But you also have to be willing to get your hands dirty (metaphorically) and work hard.
Candidates who understand that our investment in company culture is about more than providing an avenue for fun, and who link their skills back to our core values, are going to grab our attention — no doubt about it.
For us, our values are rooted in mutual respect, accountability, and allowing our team to have the freedom and autonomy within their roles to achieve success. Candidates who can speak to how they would excel in that environment stand out in the crowd. And when a job seeker knows that she’ll be in a place where she’s truly valued, she’s more inclined to be a part of our team and become a productive member of that team.
So at the end of the day, as more and more companies focus on values and culture, you still have to prove why you deserve to be there. Companies should absolutely make employees feel valued, but there has to be mutual respect. Your goal in the interview should be to make sure they know why hiring you means good things for people on both sides of the table.
Diamond Scott is the recruitment coordinator at Influence & Co., a content marketing agency that specializes in helping companies showcase their expertise through thought leadership.