Tuesday, October 7, 2014

RHT: Job Seekers: 4 Steps to Finding the Right Cultural Fit for You

by Audrey Dabareiner  Robert Half Technology
October 7, 2014

Candidates need to know what type of culture they’re looking for in terms of people and technology.
You’ve been searching for a while and finally found an IT job that appears to perfectly match your skill set and provide the potential for advancement you hoped to find. The interview went great and now the employer has presented you with an attractive job offer.
Before you give a quick yes to that offer, you need to be sure that the company is the right cultural fit for you personally. A few weeks ago, I discussed cultural fit from the employer’s perspective. Now, experts from Robert Half Technology answer the question from the candidate’s point of view.
Step 1: Define what you’re looking for
Just as companies are advised to define their own corporate culture before starting the hiring process, employees would be wise to do the same. Amy Patishnock, branch manager of Robert Half Technology in Pittsburgh, advises IT candidates to have a good sense of the type of culture they’re looking for, in terms of people and technology.

“We tell IT candidates to be realistic about the environment they want to work in, as well as whether the company’s approach to technology matches their career aspirations,” says Patishnock. “Some candidates want access to the latest and greatest technology. Others may place more of a value onhow the employees are treated through benefits, training and other perks.”
Step 2: Target your questions
Specific questions asked during the interview can help answer both of these aspects, says Peter Giaimo, director of permanent services at Robert Half Technology in Chicago.

For example, ask the interviewer to describe the equipment and software the company uses, as well as their plans for technological growth in the future. Also, ask about the dress code and environment for IT workers. Don’t make the old assumption that tech workers can be more casual. Today’s tech workers are likely to be more integrated into the business, perhaps doing requirements gathering or training, so it’s smart to ask about the expectations of the role.

To learn more about how people interact in the office, go beyond typical interview questions, advises Giaimo. Ask questions such as, “How does your team celebrate a successful completion to a challenging project?” Or, “How does your team relieve stress during a difficult assignment?” Finally, ask “Why do you like working here?” If the interviewer can’t come up with an answer pretty quickly, that could be a sign.

Although these questions may seem bold, don’t be afraid to ask them, agrees Patishnock. “If you’re not comfortable asking bold questions during the interview, it may be an indication that you may not be comfortable in that environment.”
Step 3: Take a tour – in person and online
During your interview, ask for a tour of the office. Make sure you at least see the area in which you would be working. Take a look at the technology people are using in the office – are employees using headsets, flat screen monitors and laptops? If a company says they use leading edge technology, is that statement backed up by what you see in the office?

In addition, pay attention to how people are interacting with each other as you tour the office, advises Giaimo. Are they smiling and talking to each other? Do people acknowledge you or do they have their heads down, busy at work? Be realistic about how you see yourself being able to work in this environment.

Follow up online to determine if what you saw in person matches what you find online about the people you interviewed with and the company overall. “LinkedIn is a great tool,” says Giaimo. “Look up your interviewers and others at the company to get a sense of how long they have been at the company, what others have to say about them and their interests outside of work, if possible. Use this information to determine if these are people you think you could learn from or would like to work with.”
Step 4: Trust your gut
“I am a fan of following my gut instinct – we advise candidates to do the same,” says Patishnock. “If you’re still uncertain about whether you would be comfortable working at a company after visiting it in person, go back online. Look at reviews of the company on Yelp or Glassdoor to get some other opinions. If there is a good mix of comments, they are probably accurate. Two or three angry posts indicate one unhappy employee, most likely.”

In addition, a good recruiter can give you excellent insight into a company’s corporate culture, emphasizes Giaimo. If a recruiter has worked with a company over time and has placed people in jobs, the recruiter will have a strong sense about what types of employees would be a cultural fit.

By doing a little homework before you begin, as well as asking questions, observing the environment and trusting your instincts, you’ll be well on your way to comfortably finding a firm with the cultural fit for you.

— Audrey Dabareiner

Audrey Dabareiner is a communications consultant, recently assisting the Robert Half Technology PR team. She has more than 15 years of experience in agency public relations/communications and has worked in various markets throughout the Midwest. Born and raised in Detroit, Audrey has spent most of her adult life in the Chicago area, yet a few years of Milwaukee residency made her an unwavering Packers fan.

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