Monday, 8 April 2013

If you could have any job in the world...

…what would it be and why? If you had the opportunity to have dinner with four people – living or dead, real or fictitious – who would they be and why? If you could be any animal, what animal would you be and why?

Getting ready for a job interview, most people expect to be asked questions related to their understanding of the job and employer, the skills and experiences they have to offer, and why they are interested in the job. But questions about your dream job or dinner party? Or what animal you’d be if you could be an animal? What’s the point? How does the person sitting across from you expect you to respond?

Generally, when interviewers ask such questions they are most interested in your explanation – the why part of the question. Why would you want to be head of the United Nations or a famous stage actor? Why would you choose your four favourite authors to dine with? Why would you choose to be an eagle or a panda bear or a dog? What they are trying to do is to assess what’s termed in the biz as your ‘cultural fit.’

There are more obvious questions interviewers may ask to determine applicants’ cultural fit, such as what did you like best (or least) about your previous (or current) job (or work environment)? What qualities do you admire in the people with whom you work? How do you like to be supervised? What is the most important factor you need in your work for you to be happy?

These questions go beyond assessing the skills and qualifications you have that are also necessary to perform the job, to assessing things like your values, your behaviours and what motivates you. Your responses to such questions are meant to help the interviewers decide if and how you will fit in with other employees in the organization and within the organization’s culture.

Why is this important? Well, most employers believe when there is a good cultural fit between employees’ values and motivations and the culture of an organization, employees will be happy in their work. And happy workers, in theory, are more productive than workers who dread going to work each day, are less likely to look for another job, are less likely to experience conflict with co-workers and are absent from work less.

I read an article recently (I think it was from Maclean’s magazine) against hiring for cultural fit. The author argued that when employers only hire people with similar values, beliefs, etc., they miss opportunities for creativity and innovation. I get the point. But I also think that if, for example, your organization emphasizes teamwork and collaboration among employees and you hire someone who is highly competitive and doesn’t like working with other people…well, don’t be surprised if you end up spending a lot of your time managing workplace conflict.

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