Job Search Tips: Understanding Culture Fit when Changing Jobs

March 8, 2015 by Margaret Townsend
Changing from big company to small company requires different strengths

Changing jobs from a large company to a small company or doing it the other way around can throw up problems during the application and interview process that you never thought of before. Read these job search tips to understand the relevance of culture fit to your job search success.

The definition of a cultural fit.

Culture fit is open to interpretation and its definition can alter slightly depending on who you speak to and where they work.  It can often incorporate the code and ethics under which the company operates, how employees are managed or customers are treated.  However being able to operate effectively within a very large environment or a very small one usually forms a big part of how it is applied across the board when it comes to assessing potential candidates for open positions.

In small companies you have got to be self-reliant, learn a lot quickly and be ok with the fact that decisions you make on a day to day basis can have a huge effect on the business, which is a big responsibility.  You also need to be versatile and adaptable to small or changing budgets and be able to perform well within the pressures these restraints can bring. 

Of course the up side is that you do learn more in less time in the smaller environment and get noticed easier which can progress your career faster. Job satisfaction can be better as you are more likely to get your teeth into interesting projects and will be more involved with the business and its owner as a whole. Compensation can ultimately be better too as smaller companies, specifically start-ups or very early companies don’t have much ready cash for high monthly salaries and will seek other ways to retain talented and valuable employees. 

On the other hand, in a larger company there can be a lot of politics and rules and everything takes longer. Working in groups, you need to be a strong team player, rather than independent as every person involved in any project relies on everybody else.  This not only affects the success of the individual project but your own prospects too.  There can be fierce competition for promotion but in very large companies you will normally have the option to change jobs without leaving. (If changing jobs is on your agenda at all it is generally advisable to use discretion until you are sure of your plans, wherever you currently work.)

However there are less pressures, more support and larger budgets in the bigger companies and your job is usually pretty safe (bear in mind there is no such thing as a job that is 100% safe!), with more benefits which a smaller business cannot always afford to provide. 

Get ready to be judged.

If you know you are looking at moving to a company which will result in a massive political and/or cultural shift in the working environment simply because of its size then you need to be aware that this is the first potential barrier to entry even before you apply.  Nobody wants to have to hire again in a few months’ time simply because you didn’t fit in.

Recruiters working for smaller companies will want to know that you are comfortable with all of the expected pressures and can add a lot of value to that already vulnerable business.  Those hiring for larger companies are looking for people who can operate within their already pre-defined structures and systems and contribute to team efforts.  You should be able to demonstrate either that you have already thrived in a similar environment previously or that you have the ability to do so. 

You will also be quizzed about why you left any of your previous jobs, especially if one of them was a similar environment to the one you are now hoping to join.  The recruiter is simply wondering if you were unhappy or if you were less than effective in your duties and if so, why do you want to go back to that?  If this applies to you it is important to think it through before being faced with questions and try to deal with it early on in the process if at all possible.

The earlier you can get the elephant in the room dealt with the better, so it is a good idea to get this across in your resume or application cover letter.  That way if you get to the interview stage you can focus on more substantial issues regarding your experience and abilities, what you will bring to the role itself and build a good rapport with the interviewer so they will remember you in a positive way.

About the Author

Margaret Townsend
An experienced recruiter and job seeker, now co-founder of a private job search website. Blogs are full of practical tips and advice on career development, work-life balance, the job search and the job interview. Also writes in-depth unique articles about workplace issues such as gender diversity, HR practices, culture fit, employee engagement and gainful employment.

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