It’s The Culture!
Last week I drove to Birmingham for lunch. This visit was long overdue. One of my best clients has a restaurant in Birmingham, so it was finally time to check it out. The trip from Johns Creek, GA took about three hours, having left after rush-hour. I arrived 11:45 a.m. Birmingham time. Even then the restaurant was busy, with more guests following me. I took a seat at the bar and was greeted by Teresa. She offered me a warm welcome and asked if I had been there before. I told her that I had not, but had long planned to do so. Teresa promptly explained that the restaurant made all of their items from scratch. She went on to say that they specialize in small-plate portions served as they come off the line. She described their special of the day, a pulled-pork, barbecue sandwich piled high on a bagel. It sounded luscious, but I was in the mood for something else, Grilled Red Fish Tacos with a side order of black beans and rice. She took my order and left to pour a 12oz Yuengling lager from the tap.
It was very helpful to observe the operation, to better understand their service model. I had a great view of the entire process, including the kitchen. I could easily interact with the server/bartender. It was evident that the employees enjoyed their work. The service was quick, the food was excellent, and the staff was very friendly. The managers were actively engaged in serving the customers, without being obtrusive. Teresa even presented me with her business card, something I've never seen before. The back of the card featured a promotional message that listed upcoming specials. During my meal, I overheard Teresa tell another customer about helping open their new restaurant in Charlotte. She talked about that trip with great pride and enthusiasm as if she were the company's chief evangelist. I learned a lot from that visit. I came away with a much clearer sense of the culture my client was cultivating. This knowledge will help me as I take on new assignments for them.
The next day I was working with another client, prepping them to interview a potential new hire. I drafted an interview guide to help them learn everything they needed from the candidate. As the issue of cultural fit is important to this client, I crafted some relevant questions. I made sure that I provided a good selection of open-ended questions designed to get to the heart of the candidate's capabilities, management style, and ideal work environment.
I have learned that the most difficult part of any hiring decision is to assess the candidate’s fit with the organization’s culture. A good cultural fit is a major determinant of the applicant’s likelihood of success in any position. Probing this issue may be the most useful line of questioning in any interview. It is often the least well understood.
To make an appropriate assessment as to any job applicants cultural fit, the employer must first understand their company’s values and the attributes of their culture. For many businesses, especially smaller entrepreneurial firms this is a neglected matter. Although the company may tell you what's important to them as a brand and attributes they value, often they don't have processes in place to manage their culture. As a result, their ability to compare a job seeker to their corporate values becomes problematic. For employers looking to hire people that fit the culture, begin by understanding your values and manage them proactively. For job seekers, be sure to validate that your needs and values align with the target company's culture.
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Jim Weber, President
Author of: Fighting Alligators: Job Search Strategy For The New Normal
New Century Dynamics Executive Search
1. GM, Private Club based in Southeast, Confidential Search: New
2. Director of Business Development, Atlanta-based B2B Professional Services Company: New
3. Training Director – Southeastern-based Restaurant Group: New
4. Senior Accounting Manager – Atlanta-based Manufacturer. New
5. Controller – Orlando, FL-based Restaurant Company: New