Company Culture Matters More Than Some “Experts” Will Admit

Last night a friend asked me for some advice. He was in a job interview for a sales role and, either after the interview or towards the end of the interview, the interviewer told him that his energy level was too low.

This was shocking to my friend. He is an excellent salesman, and pretty much always exceeds any quotas.

His question was: How do you respond to that? The first impression was already made… you can’t rewind. Plus, that’s his personality. High energy doesn’t always mean successful, even in sales.  And he has a track record that however he does it, he brings in the sales.

I don’t remember what my response was to him, last night. Right now, just writing this, my thoughts are “counter the claim (of low energy) with stats and facts. Let your past accomplishments tell your story.”

Yep. Good answer.  But that just came to me. For most of the day I’ve had a different thought: If the boss wants a high energy team, and you have a different style, then perhaps you aren’t a good cultural fit.

Trust me… as good as it might seem now, and as appealing it is to have that (or any) job, let this be a yellow flag that you look at and think “Hm… maybe the culture here is not going to work out.”

Years ago someone asked me about a huge career transition. He said that he didn’t care what the job was, or where it was… his main criteria was the amount of money they would pay. I should mention that this person, a Baby Boomer, has a level of loyalty that is awesome… for employers.

He ended up taking a job, for ten years, that was horrible. Yes, the pay was great… until after the first year, and they somehow figured out how to reduce his salary by 33%. Remember the loyalty thing? That’s why he stayed.  The job got worse and worse. The culture fit couldn’t have been more mismatched. This professional cared about people, building teams, empowering managers… but the owner cared about revenue and profit. Ten years of cultural mismatch had an impact on him.  He’s out of the situation now, and he’s a great guy, but I doubt he looks back at those ten years fondly.

Some experts say that company culture is non-existent. To them I say, you have never worked at a company that had a strong, great culture. I have, and it was amazing to witness.

Here’s what I know: when you are looking for jobs, make sure you weigh cultural fit just as much as you weigh salary and commute and benefits. If you don’t, you might be setting yourself up for an unhappy work environment… one that’s destined to point you in the direction of yet another job search.

5 thoughts on “Company Culture Matters More Than Some “Experts” Will Admit”

  1. Another great article! As a career coach I do my best to teach people to prepare themselves for an interview in a two-fold manner. First and foremost, know who you are and what you bring to the table. If you are authentically who you are in an interview then the hiring manager can make an informed decision about whether you will really fit what they are looking for in their organization.

    Secondly and equally important is take some time to prepare questions for the those interviewing you. You need to know about the culture and climate of the organization you are considering investing “10 years” in.

    If you take a job solely on pay, 9 times out of 10, you will be disappointed. You will have missed the mark. And if you go into an interview and you are not authentically who you are then you have sold a defective “product” to the organization and you will pay a penalty, “up to and including termination.”

    If you can’t be YOU – and your the product you are selling….and the culture doesn’t fit what you are looking for or you don’t fit what they are looking for…RUN!!

  2. I agree about the culture fit, Jason. And I also think that what we consider our “immutable” personality is actually a construct that can change over time. Sometimes as we increase our emotional intelligence, our personality changes! So, in addition to looking for a company with a better culture fit, I would encourage your friend to increase his emotional and social intelligence. Perhaps he will start to come across as having more energy – I know I’ve seen this happen many times! The best place I know to do this kind of work is the Wright Foundation in Chicago – ask me if you’d like to know more!

  3. Most individuals do not receive helpful feedback. This candidate has. He has a decision to make for future interviews. First take s mock interview, operationalize what it looks like to be energetic. See how he can modify his behavior to bring life into the interview,, without comprising who he is. Further, interviewing is about selling. Learn to modify his style to the type of role and organization he wishes to join

  4. Couldn’t agree more about the company cultural being important. It’s super vital for companies to develop a culture of excellence, and also to consider cultural fit when hiring candidates for a position.

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