In the last decade or so, many businesses have used their organizational culture as a measure for hiring new employees. If a candidate meshes well with the interests and personalities of the current employees, the hiring manager takes it as a sign that the candidate will thrive.
Recently, the tide has begun to turn. Organizations are realizing that having a homogeneous workforce is actually counterproductive. More and more companies are looking to see what you can add to their present culture. Instead of fitting everyone into the same mold, they are looking to build on the values that are already in place. So how does this impact your job search?
As usual, you will want to research the company's values to start with. Search the company's websites and social media accounts to get a feel for what the organization’s culture looks like. Can you tell if their employees are happy? Is there evidence of outreach programs that benefit the community? Are there examples of positive customer interaction?
Once you've scratched the surface, you can dive a little deeper and read their reviews on sites like Glassdoor, Yelp, and Google. What are these reviews saying? Are the employees reporting positive experiences with management? Try to read between the lines on customer reviews. Typically, the people who leave reviews are either very happy or very upset. If there are instances of conflict, was it resolved in a timely and courteous manner? Try to take it all in with an open mind.
When you're ready for a full immersion into the company's culture, contact someone who works there and ask for their input. These informational interviews with friends, business contacts, or friends of friends can be beneficial to you. A candid discussion about the organization, its values, concerns, and more can help you get the full picture.
Once you've gained these insights, it's time to decide if the company is a good fit for you. Instead of how well you fit with the company as it is, think about what positive changes or additions you can bring. Could you put in place an outreach program that is currently missing? Can you impact the diversity practices of the company for the better?
When it's time to write your cover letter (and of course later in the interview process), show your interest in these contributions. Include your ideas along with your actual job qualifications. This will start a discussion with the hiring manager and show your individuality outside just fitting a job description.