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Nov 27, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

A friend of mine was recently interviewing for a sales role at a hot tech company, and, in one of the interviews, a person who would be his peer looked him up and down, in his blazer, slacks and button down (aka the tech sales customer-facing uniform) and said this:

I mean, I have a beard, John over there is wearing flip flops….do you think you would fit in here?

Since when do we assess cultural fit on what someone is wearing? ESPECIALLY when they are dressed 100% appropriately? I mean, what would they have thought if he’d shown up to his interview with unkempt hair, flip flops, and a ripped t-shirt?

There are a lot of companies that are embracing a laid-back culture, but in that culture, they are looking at whether or not someone is “one of us” by what they are wearing, how old they are (yes, I said it), and how “cool” they are.

Which all begets the question, what defines a company culture?

Is it the ability to wear flip flops if you want to, or the ability to be who you are that’s important to your company? Do you want to be the kind of place where everyone is the same, or where everyone is celebrated for differences? Said in another way, does your company value what people wear, or who they are?

When it’s said that way, the beard and flip flops question above looks even worse, right?

So, how do we assess culture without coming across like a jerk?

  • Make sure that culture is well defined, and well executed.
    • Is one of your values work hard play hard? What is the metrics for each job? How many “fun” events do you have a year? Do you allow/celebrate work-life balance when it doesn’t involve the company softball team?
  • Keep culture rooted in personality traits, and interview directly for those traits.
    • Is your company project based? Then interview for teamwork skills and weed out those lone wolves that won’t be a cultural fit. Is your sales team all about closing? Then interview about how the person closes deals, tough deals they closed and how they got there. If your sales team takes more of an advisory approach, interview to that.
  • Remember there are layers of culture- company, group, team, make sure that you look at a new opening, see what the fit will be in all of these areas, and form your interview team around assessing each aspect that someone will need to be successful in the job, group, and company.

One of the most successful salespeople I’ve ever met wore a Hawaiian shirt every day- the louder, the better. His customers remembered him as the Hawaiian shirt guy, and he was the top-selling salesperson at his company because customers loved and trusted him, and he got deals closed because he was knowledgeable, personable, and organized. Wouldn’t it have been sad if he hadn’t gotten the job because of his shirt?






This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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