Culture Fit and Career Success: What You Should Know

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Contributed by Amy Stewart, AIM Consulting

“Culture fit” can be the deciding factor in whether a candidate secures a contract position, consulting engagement, or full-time position. It can determine whether a person is likely to succeed in a particular work environment regardless of the technical skills needed to do the work. Will that individual “fit in” with the people who work there and the norms that have been established?

However, different companies can mean very different things when they talk about culture fit. They can also have different interpretations of what constitutes a culture fit.

1. Culture Fit Can Actually Be About Professionalism

effective communication at work

Culture fit is not always about culture. When some companies say they want a good culture fit, what they mean is a professional who brings strong soft skills to the office.

Soft skills are skills that are necessary to do a job effectively that are not a direct result of standard education or formal training. They include good communication, positive attitude, organization, initiative, reliability, flexibility, and cooperativeness. Soft skills are part of culture fit when they represent the work ethic, values, and operations of the company.

Most of us tend to believe that our soft skills are more developed than they actually are. We can also misconstrue what a soft skill is. For example, “good communication” is often understood to mean being able to express complex ideas in a way that other people can understand. Although this is an important skill, good communication more often refers to a positive social and organizational behavior. A person with good communication doesn’t surprise or confuse their coworkers. People know what they can expect because that person keeps everyone informed of what they are working on, where they are, and why they make the choices they do. Usually, good communicators are also good listeners. Poor communicators, although they may do good work, can become a source of stress in an office.

The best consultants constantly hone their soft skills and work hard to be a good culture fit—in a professional sense—just about anywhere they go. They can walk into any environment, at any company, in any industry, and be trusted to conduct themselves professionally in addition to providing the needed technical expertise. Contrastingly, people who lack soft skills require a niche or more forgiving work environment, thereby limiting their opportunities.

2. Culture Fit Can Be Who You Are Outside of Work

work life balance

One’s interests, personality, or social chemistry can be important to a company because of the industry or product the business is in. It can also be important because of who else works there.

There are obvious differences between companies. Some environments are laid back. Others are regimented. Some are loud and extroverted. Others are quiet and focused. Dress codes are all over the board and core values and beliefs vary widely from company to company.

REI, for example, prefers to hire people whose passions outside of work relate to the outdoors. They want to employ people who not only understand their market but are their market. Other companies have other needs. Sometimes a team is looking for “more people like them.” Other times they are looking to fill a gap for a particular type of personality that will complement the group and provide something of value that the team needs.

The trick with culture fit is that candidates rarely have the insight into a company and individual departments to know whether or not the environment will suit them. That is where AIM can help. One of the ways we are different as a consultancy is the solid relationship we have with clients. Taking the time to get to know our clients as well as we do means that we already know the culture of the company, the make-up of the team, and the needs of hiring managers.

We know ahead of time what kind of candidate is desired. That is why we meet our candidates in person. When we set up an interview with the hiring manager, we want to have already determined that our consultant is the perfect fit.

Set Yourself Up For Success

You can maximize your opportunities by remembering the following:

1. Be professional.

A good consultant is a subject matter expert who can interact with all types of individuals in a diverse array of company environments. Because you don’t know what behaviors are expected company to company, set the bar high. Arrive early, come prepared, and hone your soft skills as well as your technical expertise.

2. Share who you are.

People are looking to work with people they like. You should focus on how your skills can solve a problem, but it can help to state your hobbies, interests, and passions in appropriate places on your resume, online profiles, and in conversation. Your love of 3D modeling, volunteering, or weekend warrior soccer may be what gets you the opportunity of a lifetime.

3. Let us help you.

At AIM, we believe strongly in developing long-term relationships with our consultants. We are your advocates and we want you to succeed. If there is an area where you can improve, we would love to help. We want to help get you to that next step in your career. That’s our job. That’s our passion.

To read more thought leadership like “Culture Fit and Career Success: What You Should Know“, check out the AIM Consulting blog.

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