Identifying corporate culture can help job seekers

Every business has its own personality. It’s called the corporate culture, and it trickles down from senior management, influences middle managers and sets the stage for personnel in almost every department and position. A particular company’s culture may be customer-focused, highly creative or pleasantly laid back. It could be driven by teamwork or inspired by positive change in the community.

Some companies work hard to create a specific culture, such as an organization that adopts a competitive spirit and encourages rivalry among its teams. Other businesses allow culture to develop more organically, arising out of daily challenges, goals and staff personalities.

Why is corporate culture important to job seekers? Because candidates who “fit in” with the existing culture require less training and supervision. They’re easier to manage and generally more agreeable for co-workers to be around. Quite simply, if you learn the corporate culture, you stand a better chance of landing a job.

First things first. How do you identify the corporate culture? Start by checking out the company’s Web site, marketing materials and advertisements. Gather insights from the taglines, text, design choices and photographs.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you are targeting two different companies. The first business describes itself as “Your favorite local eatery.” The second calls itself as “The fastest-growing restaurant chain in the Northwest.” Right off the bat, you know that you will approach each operation differently, perhaps one more casually than the other.

But there is more to learn. Read the marketing language closely. Evaluate design themes and graphics. Are they powerful or subdued? Straightforward or eccentric?

Next, search for media reports about each organization, primarily newspaper or online articles. When speaking to the media, managers and public relations actively promote the reputation and culture of their companies. Their quotes, anecdotes and stories are loaded with useful details.

Finally, stay open to information received through word of mouth. If you have the opportunity to talk with a current or former employee, pay attention to his or her accounts of the workplace. Also, watch for body language and word clues, which may provide further facts about the business.

After you understand the personality of your potential employer, how do you proceed? Here are a few ideas:

Revise your resume and cover letter to suit the company’s culture. For instance, if you desire a management position with a family-owned business, eliminate phrases such as “strategic planning” and “global market share.” Instead, focus on your experience in team building and trimming costs.

Prepare for interviews carefully. When it comes to the illusive topic of “fitting in” with a workplace, everything can be a factor, including your clothing, language and demeanor. Be yourself, but dress and act appropriately for the organization. Respond to interview questions by giving examples that align with the employer’s culture and practices.

In some cases, a company’s personality may be tricky to pin down. Other times, a business will surprise you with a different culture than you expect. Even so, do the work. Make an effort to learn about your potential employer. If you position yourself as the perfect individual for a job — with the right personality and experience — other candidates will be swept aside. The job will be yours.

Eve Nicholas can be reached at

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