Finding the Right Cultural Fit (Part 1)

Geeta Gubba Kirschner ‘13

Geeta is an alumna who’s been out in the ‘real world’ for three years.  She and a few classmates have some advice on what to look for in your first, or next job.  This is the first in a multi-part series “Job Search Tips From Outside the Bubble…”

As someone who recently did interviewing as part of a rotational program post-Olin, I learned a fair amount about picking teams and finding a good “home.” One of the realizations was that having a good team and manager is incredibly important to your well-being. If you have a good manager, you’ll be happy emotionally, empowered at work, have growth opportunities, and the ability to apply and build on what you took away from Olin. Without a good manager, you might run into all sorts of issues, culminating in a bad experience. But also remember, there is no such thing as a perfect company, there are only wonderful teams led by awesome leaders and managers out there. Finding that is your top priority, whether it's an internship or a full-time opportunity, because companies are not uniform and one monolithic structure. Your experiences with one team and manager might vary vastly from another team and manager within the same department, business or company.

So, how do you look for good teams and managers? One thing I came upon is the concept of cultural fit, and it’s something you can suss out during the interview or an informational interview (related article “Job Search Tips from Erica”).  This requires you to have done some reflection of your previous experiences in teams and internships/jobs to recall what kind of an environment you thrive in and what you value. Then, you can ask questions in the interview to understand if there is a good match in terms of cultural fit. In this blog post, we’ll cover the self-reflection questions, and we’ll cover the interview questions in Part 2.

Remember, the company is probably looking for a cultural fit from their perspective, too. Think about how you got into Olin--it’s a two way street. But, you need to get into the mindset that you are hiring them as well, not just interviewing them. You are hiring them to be the people you let into your life and to help you grow. You receive benefits in exchange for your time, energy, and future opportunities. Meaning, you can say no to them if they aren’t a good enough fit for your cultural values (and you probably should if you have that flexibility).

Let’s get started with some self-reflection!

Self-Reflection Questions

Before you begin going on interviews, you need to know some things about yourself. Here are questions and quizzes you can take in order to understand your cultural values.

  • What are the characteristics exhibited by the best boss, professor, and mentor that you ever had or wished you ever had?
  • What are the characteristics exhibited by the best teammates that you ever had or wished you had?
  • Describe the management style that will bring forth your best work and efforts.
    • This one is interesting because you may not have had much exposure to management styles yet. Here’s what I recommend--take the Myers-Briggs personality test to get a general understanding of yourself. The free test will give you information on what management and coworker styles you get along with. You don’t have to take this as gospel truth but instead directional information, and you will morph as you grow. Here is the website:
  • What is your preferred work style? Alone or part of a team? What percentage of time would you devote to both given a choice?
  • How much do you value types of diversity (gender, ethnicity, background, experience, thought, and more) on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest?
    • This question will give you a general sense of what you are looking for on a team. Not all teams will be equally diverse in the various types of diversity.

Next week in Part 2, Geeta will dig deeper into the questions you can ask if you’re trying to find the right group for you within an organization.

Special thanks to Adela Wee (‘14) and Jared Kirschner (‘13) for providing feedback on this blog post!

Posted in: Alumni Speak