An organization’s culture is not something you can simply read about and master. This is especially true for executive recruiters and candidates.
Understanding the organization’s culture plays a critical role in determining whether a candidate succeeds in her or his new job.
The culture is so much more than a set of framed and widely displayed corporate values or, in some cases, even the CEOs assessment of what it is. If asked, the CEO will typically tell the candidate what he wants the culture to be, or what he imagines it to be, but there is no guarantee that his assessment is accurate.
That understanding an organization’s culture is such a critical determinant of a new employee’s success or failure makes the lack of attention to this subject during the interview process so odd. Yet, many of the executives and managers who fail to make it to the two-year employment mark reported that they did not ask interview questions about culture, political alliances (read: sacred cows) or how things get done on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, and surprisingly, many search firms and their corporate clients do not address this important employment dimension at all, or only briefly, leaving it to the candidate to sort it out. This all too often results in a self-inflicted career wound that could have easily been avoided.
There should be plenty of time in the four or five interviews an executive candidate usually undergoes in the recruitment process to ask a variety of questions on this subject. Don’t be shy.
Here are my thoughts on what employers and their recruiters should do to avoid, or at least reduce, the chance for mis-hires:
Every organization, from leading diagnostic medical centers to small town public hospitals have what I call a Good, a Bad and an Ugly profile, that is to say they all have wonderful qualities and they all have some warts. If you don’t ask, you will probably not be told, and if you stumble badly over one of these issues, it could prove to be career limiting, at least with that organization.
© 2021 John Gregory Self