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A candidate recently emailed me the following:

“…In a recent series of interviews, I had three for one role and was down to the final two candidates. I was told, I was “not the right cultural fit” ! What can I take from that! I have never had that one before!”

It can be confusing, and frankly, hurtful to hear a statement like that. That’s because, “you’re not a cultural fit,” is code for, “we can’t see your personality and approach to work fitting in with the rest of us.”

Culture Club = It’s High School All Over Again

One of the biggest challenges in looking for a new job is successfully navigating the ‘culture club’ throughout the interview process. It can feel like you are back in high school. Each company you interview with will have its own tribe-like feel. Think of all the cliques you used to encounter: the jocks, the nerds, the cheerleaders, the artists, the goths, the rich kids, etc. Each group had a set of beliefs that dictated how they spoke, dressed, and interacted with one another. It was up to you to find the group where you felt you belonged. While I wish I could tell you times have changed, they haven’t. We’ve all grown up, but we are still human – and forming tribes is what humans do. It’s our way of bonding so we can work together and be more productive. Now, before you get defensive and cry, “not fair!” consider this…

Every Successful Company Has a Strong Culture Club

Google. Apple. Facebook. Amazon. To work at these prestigious companies, you need to fit in with their culture club. This is never going to go away. As long as there are companies to work for, there will be culture clubs to go with them. As job seekers, it’s up to us to identify and pursue companies where we know our personality and approach to work will be accepted. With that in mind, here are three tips for guiding your job search towards the right companies for YOU:

1) Create an ‘Interview Bucket List.” Today, there is no shortage of information about employers online. You can study their websites, social media accounts, and event set up Google Alerts to let you know when they are in the news. By studying what these companies say about themselves in public you can start to see what type of culture club they have.

2) Network with employees before you apply. Find and follow employees of the company on social media. Start online conversations with them about their work. Better still, take it offline and see if you can meet them at a networking event or for coffee. If you find it easy to connect and converse with them, it’s a sign you’d fit in at their employer. From there, you should ask for an informational interview. Here are two great articles on the subject:

3) Invest in improving your interviewing skills. Interviewing doesn’t come naturally to the majority of us. Who likes selling themselves? As a result, it’s possible that you’re making the wrong impression and critical errors in interviews that are costing you the job. By studying and improving your interview techniques, you’ll be more relaxed and confident in future interviews, allowing your real, best self to naturally shine through.

If you’ve been told you weren’t a cultural fit in an interview, don’t take it personally. It’s likely they did you a favour. Why work someplace where you don’t feel like you belong? Instead, move on and use the tips above to find a culture club that lets you do your best work!