Branding & Culture Fit

Those seem to be two very hot topics these days! And they are topics that are relevant to Chief Financial Officers and other Finance Leaders.

A few days ago, after reading Fortune’s article, “Is it better to hire for cultural fit over experience,” I posted this in my Linked In CFO Careers group “A strong, compelling, and visible brand takes the question of culture fit completely off the table!” My comment was in response, in part, to these comments from the Fortune article …

“the most qualified candidates often do damage to a firm when they don’t jibe with the firm’s culture.”

“Cultural fit is incredibly important on a candidate’s abilities to use his skills,” says Nancy Rothbard, an associate professor of management at The Wharton School. “You have a positive effect through skills, but culture completely cancels that out.”

Cultural fit can cover a variety of characteristics, but ultimately, Rothbard and others say, the question hiring managers should be looking to answer is, does this candidate’s values align with those of the company ….”

Culture fit is THE most difficult piece of the hiring process. And while most articles speak to a company getting it right, I think it is equally important for candidates to get it right. I doubt any senior executive really wants to make a wrong decision and end up in job search mode almost immediately.

George Bradt quoted Kevin Kelly, CEO of Heidrick & Struggles, in his post about interview questions at …

“40 percent of senior executives leave organizations or are fired or pushed out within 18 months. It’s not because they’re dumb; it’s because a lot of times culturally they may not fit in with the organization or it’s not clearly articulated to them as they joined.” [emphasis mine]

Forty percentfired or pushed out within 18 months! I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be calling the shots than the one being fired at by someone else.

Enter branding, which speaks directly to culture fit. In fact, a strong brand attracts the right kind of opportunities while sending those that are a poor fit running in the opposite direction.

I believe that by the time you make it to the “Top 3”, there are really only two remaining questions on the table. Are you a fit for the company’s culture and do they like you. When you are well-branded – and visible – the culture fit question has already been answered … for both the candidate and the company, giving you a huge advantage over the other two candidates.

The 3 C’s: Communication, Culture, Core Values

One of the very smart CFOs I follow on Twitter blogs at Beyond Beans. His most recent post talks about the importance of communication in leadership. He’s right. In fact, communication is so important, that Tatum has pushed its CFOs to get training in “the softer skills,” including communications and negotiations. 

And retired CFO of AT&T and Northrup Grumman, Charles N. Noski, says “once you get past the technical skills, it’s all about the people – communicating with them, developing them, empowering them, and listening to them.”

At the CFO level, communication skills are critical. So are the other two Cs: culture fit and core values.

One of the most challenging issues a company faces when hiring is culture fit. Its ability, or inability, to clearly communicate its corporate culture is the difference between smart hiring and costly hiring mistakes. Underlining corporate culture are a company’s core values. 

Understanding individual core values and culture fit are equally important to making that next, right move. 

Core values can serve as a roadmap for good decision-making. Unless you are clear about what values you hold, and whether that next position will validate or violate your core values, you become like a ship without a rudder. You’re moving, but aimlessly … and often unhappily or unsatisfactorily.

The same is true for culture fit. It is, or should be, as important to you as it is to the company hiring you. The more you “fit in,” the happier and more satisfied you will be in that next position.

So here’s the skinny … understand your core values and your brand (culture fit), and then communicate that message in a clear and consistent manner to your target market.