Demonstrating cultural fit in your application

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Like many others in this business I’ve written about targeting your job application to the job and the company you’re applying for. In my previous post I concentrated on incorporating keywords in an application and making sure to demonstrate to the employer that you can do what they need you to do.  However, employers want to know more than just your qualifications in order to make a decision about whether you are their best choice.  They also want to know whether you’ll “fit”.  The term “cultural fit” is widely used in recruitment circles. Whilst assessments of cultural fit are most likely to occur in an interview where the employer can meet the candidate in person you can begin demonstrating cultural fit right from the start of your application.

Understand who you are, what you want to do and how you want to do it

It’s unlikely you will know if you’ll fit into a company’s organizational culture if you don’t understand what your own values and aspirations are. Whilst these will change with time you should at least have an idea.  I suggest spending some time with a professional career coach/counselor who will help you paint a picture of what it is you’re looking for in order to have a successful career life.  A career counselor can use a variety of methods to help you determine what you’re seeking.  Narrative counseling is a great way of using stories from the past to help write the story of your future.  It can help you “unpack” from your experiences the things that are important to you, how you like doing things, the people you like to be around etc etc.  Semi-formal assessments such as card sorts can also help.  The values card sort activity asks you to identify a number of different values as either “very important”, “important” or “not important”.  Just as important as knowing what you’re looking for is knowing what you want to avoid.  Whilst you want to give yourself room to be challenged and grow as Hoffman says in his book ‘The start up of you‘ “when you’re doing work you care about, you are able to work harder and better”.

Once you know what values and aspirations start looking for companies that offer what you’re looking for.

Do your research and apply to target companies

With your values and aspirations in mind start researching companies that offer the type of work you want to do and are a cultural fit for you.  There is a wealth of information on the internet about companies and you can tap into your network for more insight.  Start with a big list and then narrow it down to about twenty companies that look like a good fit.  Identify your top 5-10 and focus your efforts on them.

This approach offers a number of advantages.  Firstly, as I’ve written about previously  it avoids the awful “spray and pray” approach of sending your resume out to tens or hundreds of advertised jobs when what you should be doing is tapping into the hidden job market.

Secondly, as I’ve already said it hones your efforts on companies that will offer you the best working environments i.e those that align with your values and goals.  Thirdly, and importantly, by targeting these companies you are demonstrating to them that the work they do and the culture they have is what you are looking for and they know that cultural fit is important- they know you’ll work harder and better in conditions that suit you.

Address your values in your cover letter and resume

Whether you’re cold calling a company you’ve identified on your list or target companies or replying to a job advertisement by one of your target companies you can identify in your resume and more specifically in your cover letter that their culture is a good fit for you.

First the resume.  Whilst your resume is a catalogue of your skills, experience and accomplishments it offers a number of opportunities to demonstrate cultural fit.   If you’ve worked at similar organizations before then your professional experience will indicate this.  In addition, your professional summary (whilst it should focus on your “brand”) can incorporate an objective.  For example, one client (an administrative assistant) I had wanted to make the switch from a corporate environment to one where she felt she could make more of a difference.  In her application to a community-based aged care facility she ended her professional summary with “seeking an opportunity to apply my administrative skills and expertise to make a difference in the community”.  This is a clear indication that her values were aligned with the company she was applying to. Another important area that you can demonstrate an alignment with a company’s culture is in your volunteer or community engagement section.  Whilst your paid employment history may not demonstrate alignment with the values of the company you are applying to your unpaid experience may just do that. Volunteer experience is a valuable inclusion in your resume.  If a company has a strong community presence and has a community engagement program your involvement with your local community (and even better if in the same field) can demonstrate to them that you are a good fit for them.

Your cover letter is an opportunity to be far more personable than your resume allows so it’s a perfect place to give the prospective employer an idea about how you’ll fit in. Check out this article by The Muse. Your cover letter doesn’t need to be long.  Part of demonstrating cultural fit is letting them know why you’re excited about the prospect of working for them so be sure to address this.  Show your passion for the work to do and make reference to their company culture and why you believe you’re a great fit. Make sure you don’t undo all your good work by not personally addressing the letter to the hiring manager.  Do your research and find out who to address the letter to.

If you would like help tailoring your resume to a great job opportunity click here to read more about our services and contact us for a free quote.


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