Culture Fit: How do you describe the culture of your organization?

"How would you describe the culture of your organization?"

Just think for a minute about how you would answer that question. I think it's a great question for candidates to ask during the course of an interview, so when we're the people sitting on the other side of the table, we might want to have thoughtful, truthful answers ready.

I recently asked this question, sitting for a change on the candidate side of the table, as I talked with the senior leadership team of a fairly mature, prominent, well-organized cultural organization. Each member of the team answered with something about shared passion for the cause, which is clearly an important part of a high-functioning social profit team, but really didn't tell me much about the operating culture. I really wanted to know what's different about working here? How do people treat each other and the public they serve? Is it serious-minded or fun-loving? Traditionally scheduled or brimming with flexibility? Is mentoring part of everyone's job and success shared by all, as well as disappointments? Suits or jeans?

I followed up by asking, "Well, what do most of the administrative staff do for lunch?" They looked at me like I'd grown bunny ears and a Rudolph nose. It tells me a lot, this question, about whether people feel chained to their desk, choose to go out together, sit at the picnic table in the courtyard and talk business, and that in turn, gives me some idea of the culture., a company that sells recruiting and employment software, posted a great article about describing your company's culture in five words. (And the accompanying cartoon may hit a little too close to home.)It's really something to think about -- and a legitimate goal would be to champion those aspects of culture in such a way that everyone in the organization buys into them completely. Some orgs do a great job of this and we can find those characteristics right on their web sites under "what we believe", "who we are", "what we stand for", or even "our culture". Personally, I'd be really drawn to a company, like Zappos, that describes its culture as "fun and weird" but would also know that, realistically, it might not be the best match for me in the long run.

"We're passionate and we work hard" could easily be the description for just about any legitimate social profit organization, so we need to think a little harder, dig a little deeper to understand what it's really like inside our place of business. You may not be able to accurately describe your organization as "fun and weird", but I'm betting you have some unique cultural qualities that would be attractive to people wanting to understand who you are and how you work. And if the truthful words you come up with don't make you happy, cultures can always be changed.

Got five words for your organizational culture?

Common People United