Why Elvis would not get a job at Microsoft!
By: Alex McMillan
All companies have a culture whether they know it, designed it, or it just evolved. So when you join
a new organisation, be aware you’re effectively joining a cult.
Like any cult there will be formal and informal group behaviour rules. These rules will govern a value
system, how to behave in certain circumstances and even a dress code.
If you don’t know the rules you’re unlikely to survive, let alone prosper. My 18 years in
career consultancy has shown me that time and time again career success goes to those who fit best into
Corporate culture is the value system of the majority. The value system is what is important to them in
terms of every aspect of human behaviour. It covers identity, beliefs, opinions, attitude, social class,
age, dress, personality, everything. Which of these things is most important is part of the definition
of the corporate culture. Cultures evolve over time and are effected by industry sector, size, place
of origin, personality and vision of founders. As small companies grow the culture becomes more rigidly
So how do you know which culture is right for you?
The right culture is one which reflects your personal value system. One in which your can identify and
easily rapport with current members. To do this you need to know yourself. What are your values, beliefs,
ambitions, and motivations?
As a professional recruiter I can tell you 90 per cent of people cannot say what drives them. Before you
can understand what drives the people in any particular company, first you need to know what drives you
so as to make a successful match. Here is a quick test - answer these questions.
- What really motivates you?
- What are your career values?
- Where exactly do you want to be in one/five years?
- What core career beliefs do you operate by?
- What are your ambitions?
- Where do your ambitions come from?
When you have answered these questions for yourself, then ask the same questions to any company you are
applying to. The most common answers to the above questions from company members define its culture.
Did you find that on answering the above, the answers were straight there with clarity? If they do are
all of your short and long-term goals really yours, or those of your peers, parents or friends,
Crosshead: Assessing the culture
You now have to be able to assess the culture of a target company you want to work for. You need to
establish their values, style, beliefs, motivations and goals. Here’s how.
The culture of a company is everywhere. It comes over in its employees, its offices, advertisements,
and dealings with the public. The easiest way is to put their name into an internet search engine
and read everything that has been written about them. From what you read is this a company you would
want to be part of?
Firstly do they have a clearly defined culture? This tends to indicate a company which is going places.
McDonalds, British Airways, Microsoft, Virgin, Amazon – all have a clear identity and values.
The secret of judging how well defined the culture is found by looking for commonality at all levels.
A company may have a 1000 people working for it. The question is what binds them? What set them apart?
What lets you know that they are representing that particular organisation?
So it’s not how they dress that’s important but how they dress relative to each other. It
is not the particular value set that is important in itself but that they and you share common core
So look for commonality in every aspect of them. How they answer the phone, dress, talk to each other,
plan out their offices, incentivise their staff, train their staff, report and accounts, marketing,
advertising styles, competitive stance etc.