Article courtesy of Firebrand

Paul Slezak

During the many years I worked as a recruitment consultant, and certainly in the last few years running my own career development practice, I have become accustomed to asking the question “so what sort of culture are you looking to work in?” and believe me the types of responses I have received have at times been quite astounding …

“I’d love to work somewhere that will let me work at home from time to time”

“Anywhere that puts on an open bar for staff at the end of the month” (I kid you not!)

“A culture promoting a no door policy” (is this one step further than an open door policy?”

“A culture where I don’t have to wear a suit every day”

So now I have another question for you. Which (if any) of these responses do you think actually refers to the concept of workplace culture?

Culture doesn’t only refer to whether the staff sit in an open plan, whether there is a Coke machine in the staff break-out area, or if you can wear jeans on a Friday. Believe it or not, the idea of workplace culture stems from the organisation’s core values. And then in order to really determine what type of organisational culture would suit you best, you actually need to identify your own core values.

What is really important to you?

Consider, for example, respect, recognition, loyalty, the ability to think creatively, needing to be challenged, having access to a mentor etc. Now if any (or perhaps all) of these values are important to you (especially at work), then don’t you think you would be happiest working for an organisation that encouraged or promoted similar values internally?

You may never find a place that possesses all the same core values as you do. But if the majority of your wish list matches the values of your (potential) employer, then you will be far more likely to find a culture really suited to you.

So how can you find out what values an organisation possesses? It’s very easy to find out from an individual what’s important to them, but it’s harder to uncover the true values of an organisation as a whole. If you are really keen on moving across to a particular company, you need to speak to people within the business.

Recently I have been helping an organisation expand their team and they have a policy where anyone thinking of joining the business is encouraged to not only spend one-on-one time with the HR representative, Managing Director and General Manager, but also with the longest standing staff member as well as the most recent recruit during the interview process. By doing this, potential new hires can ask people at all levels about the organisation’s values and therefore get a better sense for what the culture is really like.

Please don’t just rely purely on what you read on a company’s mission or vision statement. You will get a far more realistic picture of workplace culture by speaking to people “living” within the business.


Paul Slezak has an extensive background in recruitment and advertising both locally and internationally. He is the founder of 2 dots (www.2dots.com.au) – a boutique business that facilitates career or business change for individuals, teams and organisations. He is also Director of Recruitment Academy (www.recruitmentacademy.com.au) – Australia’s leading provider of tailored induction and training courses to the recruitment industry.