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Job Seekers, Beware a Cultural Misfit

Posted on September 2020

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Every company in the banking and financial sector has its own culture, customs, opinions and approaches - even if it isn't clearly defined. Despite the economy, despite all the challenges this year has thrown, finding a company that fits your values is crucial for your wellbeing, productivity and performance.

Company culture is a big buzzword in large professional sectors such as tech and finance. Trendy startups have invested lots in perks both useful and unusual, alongside developing cultures focused on collaboration and positivity. A culture is a broad ‘personality’ of a business - it may be a corporate powerhouse with traditional professional standards, or it is a more relaxed space where you can get away with wearing jeans and trainers. 

When interviewing for a new role, it is a given that you should enquire about the company culture. However, you will almost certainly get the same answer - our culture is brilliant and everyone gets along. 

Business cultures are just as varied as those in societies, and there can be danger in taking a job in a company where there is a cultural disconnect between employer and employee. This can lead to issues down the line as the employee becomes unhappy and the employer is dissatisfied with attitude or performance. 

This article will look at what to focus on when assessing the culture of a workplace you are interviewing for, and how to get a realistic impression of the culture by doing some digging yourself before accepting a job offer. 

The Problem With Perks

Some employers focus on eye-catching perks while writing about company culture. Table football, Friday pizza, video games, visiting food trucks, free yoga classes, a gym pass and fabulous social events are examples of perks which attract candidates.

There can be an issue with companies using perks and cool office spaces to hide a negative culture. While some of these perks will definitely fit in with your lifestyle and what you want from a role, it can also distract from large issues within the company culture, and more often than not, a gym membership and a bottle of beer on a Friday won’t help with issues which are making you inherently unhappy. Remember that perks are part of company culture, but not the culture itself. It is a company culture which helps businesses pull through times when money for perks isn’t on tap. 

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What is Truly Important To You?

You can work in a beautiful office with tastefully exposed brickwork and a designer chair, but none of this will matter if you hate your job. 

Avoid a cultural misfit by pinpointing what exactly is important to you, and which elements of company culture will have the biggest impact on you. Work out what motivates you and see if this is provided by the company you are interviewing for. 

Consider which environments make you feel productive. How do you best work? Are you a loner who likes to own their tasks? Then you may not be attracted to a culture which is heavily focused on collaboration. 

What is the companies’ mission? Its values? Does it have a corporate social responsibility programme? A diverse workforce? 

Pinpoint those values you hold which inspire commitment and confidence and see how they align with the messages companies are including on their employee value proposition and materials for candidates. 

How To Research A Company Culture As A Candidate

You need to have a look at what a neighbourhood has on offer before you buy a house, and the same applies when you are searching for a new job. Your actual exposure to a company can be limited within the recruitment process, so we recommend using the following to research a companies’ culture.

Do Some Digging Online

Have a look at employee review sites such as Glassdoor for comments from inside the company on company culture. However, keep in mind that people are more likely to leave a bad review than a good review. 

See if you have any connections within the company on LinkedIn and get the inside scoop from them. Again, don’t take these viewpoints as gospel, but this is an excellent way to measure up the general attitude of employees. 

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Talk To Others During Your Interview

Waiting at the reception? Chat to the receptionist. If an employee takes you to where you will be interviewed, ask them a few questions. If there is no-one to talk to, listen. Eavesdrop on conversations and see how employees communicate.

Take in your surroundings - how are people dressed, are employees engaged in their work, or about to fall asleep? Are there gatherings in the kitchen or the break room? 

Ask Specific Questions

Don’t just ask ‘what is the company culture like?’ Ask a generic question and you will get a generic answer. 

Instead, get into specifics and request examples of when company values and culture have led to success or excellent employee wellbeing. 

The best way to do this is to frame a question by asking for an example from the company. For example, say that you want to work somewhere where personal development is taken seriously, and then ask for an example where a personal development program has helped an employee achieve a promotion or a new qualification. These stories and examples will give you a much better impression of how the culture works rather than memorised lines about remote working policies and employee engagement.