You know looking for a job requires you to demonstrate your skills and accomplishments. You’ve put together your résumé and practiced answering questions about your five-year plan. You even have a great career story to tell, proving you’re prepared to help solve the organization’s biggest challenges.
However, you’re concerned that having the right skills isn’t enough. A buzzword keeps popping up when you look for advice online: cultural fit. It can mean a lot of different things depending on your industry, but there’s no denying the role of personality and culture in making a “right fit” hire for an employer and ultimately the long-term satisfaction for the employee.
In some ways, landing a job is really no different from finding a perfect mate: He or she may look great on paper, but if there’s no chemistry, the relationship falls flat.
What do you need to understand about cultural fit, and how can you use this information to land a best-fit career role? Tonya Lanthier is the founder and CEO of DentalPost.net, which provides dental-related career services. She suggests job seekers consider the following:
1. Skills can always be taught, but culture fit is an absolute must. Of course, your skills are crucial, but employers know they can always train someone to do a specific task. They cannot train a person to be a team player or to be willing to go the proverbial extra mile to get the job done. Lanthier notes: “The old adage ‘hire for skills, fire for culture’ is increasingly true.”
You don’t want to be caught with the short end of the stick. What are some of the intangibles that dictate culture? Lanthier suggests job seekers, “look for information about the pace of an office, use of technology, flexibility and work-life balance and the little things that ultimately make your work environment a place you want to be.”
2. Culture is generally dictated from the top down, so be sure to ask the hard questions. In most cases, leadership members dictate culture issues for their organization. Of course, this trickles down to a very real culture for their employee that goes beyond the obvious perks.
“A strong culture fit ultimately means happier employees, increased retention and a healthier bottom line,” Lanthier says. “While companies size you up, don’t be afraid to ask your own questions and let the best part of your personality shine through. Ask direct questions such as, ‘Does your company have set corporate values?’ to identify if their values align with their self-reported culture.”
Show your interest in how the company treats its employees and how you could be a fit, and you could improve your status as a candidate. Keep in mind that it’s your job to determine if there’s a strong alignment between your needs and those of the hiring organization. Do your research, and be sure the organization is right for you.
Get my free white paper: 5 Mistakes Preventing You From Landing a Job This Week
3. Don’t underestimate the power of assessment tests and profiles. Hiring managers may turn to assessments and profile tools to determine whether or not to hire you. In fact, in a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, nearly three quarters of HR managers indicated personality tests and assessments can be useful, and 20 percent are implementing these tools.
Lanthier explains: “These tests can’t ever say with certainty, ‘You’re a perfect fit,’ but they often provide the needed reinforcement to help align your skills and personality with the organization’s own culture.” Take the tests seriously, and understand the assessment’s role in making a match. Even if the questions seem silly or unrelated to the role, if you want the job, be sure to follow through with the assessment as you would with any job-related material.
Perhaps if the tool is predictive, it will save you a lot of heartache in the long run by preventing you from taking a job where you’d be miserable. Alternatively, if you’re a great fit, perhaps you’ll quickly move to the top of the candidate pool.
Originally appeared on U.S. News & World Report.