I am almost certain each of us has been to an interview for a desired job, and as soon as entering the company we have kind of already made up our minds regarding whether we wanted to work there or not. Was it the job description that contributed to this decision? No. It was the warm welcome by the front desk manager. It was the cosy sofa on which we sat while waiting. It was the hot tea we were served to relax in the meanwhile. Or, on the contrary, it was the ignoring by the company staff. The boring walls. The too long waiting we had to endure before being invited in for the interview. It was the anxiety that the recruiter made us experience during the discussion.
We are all very aware of the fact that first impressions matter a lot when interacting with people in general. But we may be less conscious about the fact that the interview is the first encounter between the candidate and our organization, during which potential future employees make first impressions regarding their potential future workplace. It is essential that this first encounter be pleasant and communicative of the real organizational culture.
Organizational culture can be seen as the personality of the company or its “personal” style, which makes it unique among others. Companies have a certain “clothing style” (i.e. the artefacts - the dress code and the design of furniture and buildings), a set of values (i.e. the philosophies and statements of identity), and a set of principles (i.e. basic assumptions, usually unconscious). Edgar Schein’s organizational culture model (1985) described corporate culture through these three levels, although there are other, more recent models, which have focused on other dimensions as well (e.g. power distance, individualism, long term orientation etc.). No matter how we define organizational culture, every company has each of its own and needs to honestly communicate it to future employees.
Why is it so important to communicate the corporate culture openly to candidates from the start? According to the Person-Organization Fit paradigm applied to the recruitment and selection process (Billsberry & Searle, 2015), both the employer as well as the candidate assess the fit between the two. In other words, the candidate also has an active role in considering whether they would perform well or they would be satisfied in the given work environment. Two key assumptions of this paradigm are:
- The fit between employers and employees influences the way in which people grow and develop with the changing organization;
- The interaction between people and work environments is the biggest single source of variability in performance.
Considering this, it is of high importance to offer the candidates as much information as possible regarding the way in which things are done in the company and make them reflect on whether they would perform well and be satisfied within such an organizational culture.
But other than verbally communicating information, as I mentioned previously, our attitude is equally relevant, as well as the physical environment in which the candidate is received. Maybe there is little to do regarding the furniture, but there is definitely a lot to do when it comes to behaviour. As recruiters, we are responsible for expressing the corporate values and assumptions through our behaviour. If the culture values punctuality, never be late to receive a candidate. If it values transparency, be willing to share some of the experiences of being an employee in that company. If it promotes collaboration, speak in terms of benefits for both parties from the blend between the candidate’s and organization’s resources and efforts. The list of such possible behaviours to adopt is endless.
Helping candidates get a clear picture about the corporate culture means ensuring a better fit between the selected candidate to be employed and the company. It is more efficient for a recruiter to let candidates decide for themselves if the company's culture suits them, than to do this job alone for each person interviewed. In the end, it is also easier to ensure the retention of the newly employed if their personal style is already in tune with the culture around them: they will become part of the team easier, they will be able to perform well faster, and they will be more satisfied with their workplace.
That being said, dear recruiters, remember that through your job you provide the first encounter between your future hire and the company, and you carry an important message about its culture. Make it pleasant and make it meaningful! :)