Organizational Culture Is A Discussion Point In Your Interview

Organizational Culture, which is an environment that exists within a company or association that is difficult to put your arms around but is certainly vital for you as a potential new hire to understand must always be a determining factor in whether to accept or reject an offer of employment.  Organizational culture has numerous aspects which describes the decision-making process as well as the interactive systems that have been created and accepted by the participants within the organization.  Unfortunately it is difficult to always ascertain the true culture within an organization until you are actually a part of the establishment and by then it might be too late.

We have all heard of instances where individuals join an organization with all the best of intentions and is excited by the potential for a great working partnership with fellow staffers and the leadership and for whatever reason the balloon is burst and they find out much too late that this really isn’t the place for them.

All can be salvaged if meaningful questions are asked during the interview process;  questions that can dig deeper than the usual perfunctory reporting charts and strategic planning issues.  Remember, happy employees are not necessarily productive employees and productive employees are not necessarily happy employees.  The interview process avails you the opportunity to ask penetrating questions – questions that can provide answers to why you are having those stomach pangs right now!

The following are some of the questions you can pose during your interview:

1)  Please describe the decision-making process within the organization?

2)  Please describe the budgeting process and who is involved?

3)  Whom do I report directly to and who has ultimate veto power?

4)  What is the average tenure of the staff?

5)  Please describe the organizational chart.

6)  Are projects a team effort or individually produced?

7)  How often does the organization have staff meetings?

8)  How involved is the Board of Directors?

9)  Would you describe the organization as member driven or staff driven?

10) What position was the most recent hire and why/how did that take place?

Probably the most efficient way to assess some of these concerns is to talk directly with the current staff.  Some selection processes do schedule interviews with the candidates and the current staff to determine common interests and workability.  These activities are usually positioned to assist the decision-makers to determine whether the new hire can fit in but such a process can also be beneficial to the candidate for their own assessment.

The most productive technique for a new candidate or a new organization to use is the unscientific approach your mother taught you years ago – go with your gut feeling and if it doesn’t feel right then don’t go down that route.  It is amazing that with all the testing, all the interviewing and all the background checking that is now available for parties from both sides of the table that it usually comes down to whether it feels right. Compatibility is an important element of organizational culture and whether you feel like “one of the gang” or the constant outsider.

You do need to feel a comfort level with your new organization for success to be achieved.  If you have an opportunity to walk the corridors of the new organization before your decision to join the association or company, make sure you observe whether office doors are open or is this one of those places where everyone hides behind closed doors?   Are people huddled in meeting rooms or hallways discussing an issue or are individuals chained to their computers in their own offices?  Finally, does upper management lead by example and shoe leather or are they not ever to be found?

If you are to move smoothly and comfortably into a new setting and have the desire for a modest tenure you must do your homework. One of the most important factors for future success is your compatibility with the culture of the new organization.  No matter what is promised you, no matter how big the salary enticement may be or how large the corner office – make sure you are comfortable with the new environment or you may find yourself going through another transition sooner than you desire.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He currently is between positions and has written 50,000 words or 75 blogs on the topics of job search and career transition.  He can be contacted at:  dborschke@yahoo.com.

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