When we ask our candidates for their ambitions and career wishes, they usually show little hesitation in choosing their answers. They know what they are looking for. Typically, they communicate their wishes in terms of the functional steps they want to make,  the type of business they excel in and also in what culture they thrive best. “And make no mistake,” they add more often than not, “out of these three the company culture will be by far the most important criterion on which I will base my decision”.

So logically, we ask those same candidates for feedback on the organisation’s culture, after they have met with our client. Strangely enough, their answers all too often never get past the level of superficial impressions and intuitions (“yeah, they seemed like decent guys and we had a few laughs, so that’s probably covered”).

Why is that? Is it because it’s so hard to describe a culture? Or did they perhaps fail to ask the right questions? Chances are that both are true. So here’s a list of questions for our candidates, that may help making ‘corporate culture’ a little more tangible:

Leadership

Is there a clear and distinctive vision? Does leadership consistently communicate this vision throughout the organization? Does the company have a history of taking ‘big decisions’? Do employees respect the top executives? Does the company breathe professionalism throughout all layers? Can I respect my future direct superiors? Can I learn from them?

 

Ambition and entrepreneurial spirit

Are the plans ambitious enough? Do people in the company know about these  ambitions and do they share a belief in them? Are the people you meet energetic and positive? Is the company in the habit of freeing funds and other resources to explore new ideas? Does it ever take a conscious risk? What’s appears to be more important: the intellectual debate or ‘speed of action’?

 

Mandate

Who have final say in strategic decisions? How is the decision making proces organised? Who allocates budgets and on what grounds? Is there room to invest in new plans? And how many signatures does that take? What role do politics, hierarchy and bureaucracy play?

 

Growth orientation

Does the market grow? Does the company outgrow the market? Does leadership  award initiative and result with additional responsibilities? Is talent recognized and acknowledged? Are there tangible criteria for promoting people? Does seniority play a role when it comes to promotions? Does the company select new employees on the basis of experience or potential? Skills, or competencies? Is talent development defined as ‘training & education’, or does it also include assigning stretching projects, positions, missions?

 

Integrity

What values does the company communicate? Are people held accountable for compliance? How does leadership describe it’s social responsibilities? Is there a integrity policy; in black and white? What real live examples can the company give of sticking to it’s integrity, in spite of pressure or lucrative opportunities? What value do human resources represent for the company? Were the people you met fair en transparent?

 

And finally:

 

People

Is there chemistry with the people you’d be working with on a day-to-day basis (team, peers, superiors)? Are they open minded? Did you feel welcome, or were you treated as an intruder? Do you share a sense of humor, morals, values, work ethics?

 

Anyway, we hope this was helpful. We welcome your feedback.

 

TRACKS Executive Search