As a recruiter, how would you describe the culture at Apple, Microsoft, AT&T or at your own organization? I think being able to distill the essence of an organization’s culture into a few well thought out adjectives is worth a lot. It helps you choose people who are most likely to stay longer and be happier.

Many recruiters recognize the value of understanding the organizational culture and finding people who are good fits for it. However, until the specific traits that make up this culture are articulated clearly, it is very hard to know what to look for.

Taking the time to define and understand the talent philosophy of your organization will enhance your success and improve the productivity and retention of the people you hire.

Talent philosophies are complicated things. They are a mix of individual traits and a set of overarching beliefs and practices that usually have evolved over time. They are based on assumptions about how people behave or about what they want from the workplace. For example, it is typical to assume that everyone wants a long-term career when, increasingly, today’s young people want opportunities for advancement and learning and don’t care too much about a career in a single firm. Knowing what your assumptions are is essential for successfully defining your talent philosophy, yet it is very hard for those in an organization to determine those assumptions.

Here are ten questions to help you define your organization’s culture.

Ten Tough Questions to Answer

  1. What single characteristic is considered most important by hiring managers in a potential candidate?
  2. If there are two equally well-qualified candidates for a job, what determines the final choice?
  3. What are the personality styles, traits and habits of those who get promoted or seem to be the most highly regarded in your organization?
  4. If an employee were asked what adjective most accurately described the best employees’ personalities, what word would they choose?
  5. If a customer were asked to describe the culture of your organization, what would they say?
  6. How does your organization deal with poor performing employees?
  7. Who is considered the most valuable employee in your organization? What distinctive traits or characteristics does s/he have?
  8. How do major decisions get made? Are they made by consensus, a majority viewpoint, or a single person?
  9. What do you expect a good employee to have as general career aspirations?
  10. What does an employee have to do/demonstrate in order to be considered for a promotion?

A truly honest understanding of your assumptions about people and their careers and a solid analysis of what common traits employees should have will go miles in improving the quality of the candidates you bring to the table.

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