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Finding Your Cultural Fit

Submitted by amanda.dumsch@… March 11, 2024
Image of a person sitting behind a laptop with others around. Image courtesy of Christina @ wocintechchat via Unsplash

You’ve been offered an interview with a lab or an organization. As you prepare for the interview, remember to consider cultural fit in your evaluation.  

Finding a cultural fit that matches your values is often one of the most important factors to job satisfaction and happiness. Unfortunately, cultural fit can be very difficult to identify based on one or even a handful of interviews.  

While there is lots of information readily available about most other aspects of an organization, information related to an organization’s culture can difficult to find and decipher. While many companies are good at making their institution-wide culture readily known, smaller divisions, departments, and teams may take on their own culture. In fact, individual group managers may create a culture different from others as we elaborated in a previous blog post “What is Fit and Why Does it Matter?”

How then do you determine if the culture of a potential organization is the right fit for you without having the benefit of insider knowledge?  Here are two strategies for identifying whether an organization is the right fit for you culturally.

First, do your due diligence researching the organization as you prepare for the interview. Along with researching the organization’s website and other public sources of information dig a little deeper. 

  • Find NIH alumni and other connections who currently work or worked at the organization to get their input on the culture at all levels. 
  • Find speeches, presentations, or interviews of the leaders and middle management. Pay attention to how they describe their work, their organization, and their mission and values. Note how they describe their organization’s culture and how they communicate it to all levels of the organization.

Second, remember that an interview is an opportunity for you to learn more about the organization.

  • While the hiring manager will be analyzing your knowledge, abilities, and fit for the position, pay particular attention to how they treat you and the questions they may ask that are related to the culture. 
  • Ask questions that help you identify the key aspects of the culture you are looking for. And ask the same questions of everyone who interviews you.

Below are some examples of question that may help you better understand the culture of an organization.

  • How do employees get feedback on their performance?
  • What are characteristics of successful people at this organization?
  • How is the mission and strategy communicated to employees by those in leadership roles?
  • What does work/life balance look like?
  • How would you describe the work culture?
  • How would you describe the work environment for this team/department/organization?


7 Essential Questions to Ask Before Accepting a New Job

Submitted by amanda.dumsch@… March 26, 2024
Image of two women at a conference table talking to each other. Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

When you're in the throes of an interview for a new job, it's natural to focus on selling yourself and your skills. However, it's equally important to ensure that the company aligns with your professional goals and overall happiness. After all, you'll be dedicating a significant portion of your time to this job, so it's vital to ascertain if it's the right fit for you. To aid in this decision-making process, we've compiled a list of seven crucial questions to ask about a potential new job.


1. What are your expectations for this role? 

Understanding the expectations and goals for the position, especially within the initial three months, is crucial for setting yourself up for success. Clear expectations from the outset indicate a well-defined role and increase the likelihood of a positive work experience.  Additionally, be sure to ask how your work will be evaluated and if there are certain metrics or performance measures indicative of success in their estimation. 


2. What personalities flourish here?

Enquiring about the type of personalities that thrive within the organization provides insight into whether you'll fit into the company culture. This knowledge allows you to gauge your compatibility early on, minimizing potential friction in the future. Another way to ask this question is: What type of person or character traits tend to succeed in this role? 


3. What personal or professional development opportunities exist?

Exploring the company's commitment to employee growth signals its investment in staff welfare. Knowing the availability of training programs and support for professional advancement can influence your decision, especially if you prioritize skill development.


4. What's the typical career path for this position?

Understanding the potential for career advancement is crucial for goal-oriented individuals. If the position lacks opportunities for growth, it may hinder your long-term career objectives, making it essential to clarify before committing. Sometimes smaller organizations don’t have a lot of internal growth opportunities, so even asking about where people have gone after a position can help signal career advancement options. 


5. What's the company culture like? What do you think is unique to your department?

Learning about the company's culture, including work-life balance and daily routines, provides valuable insights into your potential work environment. If people struggle to answer this question, this can potentially be a red flag about team dynamics. 


6. Do you have a bonus program, or do you offer equity?

Discussing compensation details, including bonuses, equity, and benefits, is essential to ensure that your financial needs are met. Understanding the complete compensation package ensures transparency and avoids surprises later on. Never sign off on a job offer until you are crystal clear on your cumulative compensation – base, bonuses, etc. 


7. Where will I sit, and what kind of tech will I be using?

While more granular, these details can significantly impact your day-to-day experience. With the return to office/lab, knowing your workspace and the technology you'll be working with helps manage expectations and prepares you for any adjustments needed.


By understanding the role, company culture, growth opportunities, and compensation package, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your professional goals and overall well-being. Remember, interviewing is not just about proving your worth to the company; it's also about ensuring that the company aligns with your values and objectives.