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Why company culture matters in 3 easy steps

When it comes to picking your next job — don’t just factor in pay, benefits and job title. Company culture also makes a big difference.

Bill Barnett says, “that’s one element that often gets overlooked in the job hunting process.”

Mr. Barnett led the Strategy Practice at McKinsey & Company and has taught career strategy to graduate students at Yale and Rice. He now is applying business strategy concepts to careers.

He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program why company culture is so important.

Barnett says there are three main company culture questions:

  1. What should I learn? Understand the organization’s purpose — not just what they say they’re doing, but also how their purpose leads to decisions and what makes them proud. Learn how the organization operates. For example, consider the importance of performance, how the organization gets things done, the level of
 teamwork, the quality of the people, how people communicate, and any ethical issues.

  2. How should I learn? Read everything you can find about the institution, but read with a critical eye. Institutions have formal vision statements, and they often mention cultural topics in other public reports, but these documents are written with a purpose in mind. Independent writers take an independent perspective. They can be more critical, but they can miss details and get things wrong. Discuss culture with people in the organization. You’ll talk to people in the interviewing process, of course. But you may learn different things if you meet others there who aren’t involved in your recruiting process. Also talk to people outside the organization who know it — customers, suppliers, partners, and ex-employees. Their different experiences with the institution will affect their views, so ask about situations where they’ve seen the culture in action.
  3. When should I learn? It’s hard to learn about culture at an early stage in your search. But your impressions can guide you to target some institutions and avoid others. Culture may come up in job interviews, although it may be complicated to do much investigation when you’re trying to 
sell yourself. People sometimes worry that discussing culture might make people uncomfortable and put a job offer at risk.
 The culture topic is certainly not off-base, and it is necessary to know for future growth in the company. Hiring managers should expect it. Whether it’s in interviews or after you have an offer, you’ll do best if your questions show you’re learning rapidly about the organization,
 taking the employer’s perspective, and beginning to figure out how to succeed there. Culture questions can cast you in a positive light. Sean’s line of questioning confirmed the CEO’s judgment to hire him, even if Sean didn’t like the answers.

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Corey McCarren

I usually ask about culture when at a job interview. It’s very relevant, and would you really want to hire someone that didn’t want to make sure that it’s the right environment for them?