Category Archives: Cultural

The Culture Interview

Interviewing for new positions or open positions in the company can be an arduous task. Whether it is to fill an existing role or a new position, or to meet an internal or external candidate, the same attention needs to be paid to a very specific detail – company culture.

What is culture? In any company, culture is the way the organization and the players in the organization behave. Culture is how behaviour lines up with values. Culture is propagated by storytelling, passing along information, sharing experiences. An organization and its leaders recognize the behaviour of values and share honestly with their people if they are off the tracks. Leadership is examples, living the culture and modeling the way. It is essential when bringing candidates into the organization that they can fit into the culture and enhance it with their presence.

When preparing to interview, look over the role requirements, the candidate’s history and the experience they bring with them. Questions to prepare can have a somewhat standardized format for all candidates because the questions that follow the original one will lead to more information.

Role requirements are critical to understand. Not only the physical work, also the mental work, leadership and management that will be required. When reviewing this information, having the candidate qualifications nearby can be helpful. This can be part of the question formulation process.

Questions need to include the words that are prevalent in the organization. Every company has a “lingo” of its own. Using this lingo helps the candidate understand the necessary participation and engagement that will be required to be successful in the position. With external candidates, using and defining the lingo can be helpful, providing the candidate with more company information.

Initial questions lead to more in depth behavioural questions. Looking for explanations as to why something occurred or was reacted to in a certain way or how results were obtained can help both the interviewer and the candidate Find common ground.

Many forms of interview processes can reflect the culture. A high team-involved company would benefit from using team interviewing. A highly customer focused company such as a retailer would benefit from seeing the candidate in action, selling on the sales floor or even merchandising. Just as a journalist would be required to show a portfolio, any other candidate can be put through their role in order to see how they would act/react in the organization. This provides the organization with a clearer view of what they will be getting in terms of performance in the future.

After the interview is completed, asking for any culture-based questions can help clarify a potential fit both the organization and the candidate. The candidate should leave with a clear understanding of whether they would be able to work in that company for the rest of their career. That fit would make the difference.

Where Do You Find Typical Cultural Difference?

Have you read a textbook for driving? I have not until I was forced to do so by traffic violation ticket agent, taking driving test again in Tokyo. It was back in 1978. In 1985, my employer that time transferred me to New York. I needed to take driving test in New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicle in April that year. Since there were enough materials for the test such as Japanese reference books, past record of test questions and answers, I did not have to read the driving textbook of New Jersey State. There was nothing I could do one weekend, I decided to read through the driving textbook one time for making sure I could pass the writing test.

As reading, I found there are some differences in the way the driving textbook was written between New Jersey State one and Japanese one. Putting language matters aside, I found New Jersey one spent more than 3 pages explaining how accidents happen and how you can cope with them. For example, New Jersey textbook was explaining when your car gets out of control in high speed driving, you should not collide cars going to opposite direction. You should avoid head on head collision by all means. It continued that you should collide something stopping still, instead. It further suggested that you should select to collide some other cars going toward same direction as yours, if you could.

In my experience in Japan, reading driving textbook and attending traffic schools, no Japanese textbook explained how to cope with accidents, no instructor in the traffic school I attended explained about it. This caused me to think about why there are this kind of differences of approach in driving textbooks.

It is my opinion based on several conversations with my Japanese and American friends that basic understanding about traffic accidents are different between US and Japan. US or Western Culture believes that accidents will occur, no matter how drivers were cautious, conservative, and safety conscious. An accident could happen due to mechanical failure. Also it could be caused by another driver driving close to you at the time of accident. Therefore, it is logically reasonable that a driving textbook has full explanation on them as much as helpful.

On the other hand, Japanese approach to car accidents is a little bit different. They believe that car accidents are bad things that should not occur. Or car accidents are the things drivers should avoid by all means. They would admit that accidents do happen. But they believe that preventive maintenance is more important than explaining how to deal with accidents. So their driving textbook is talking about how to check their car before long distance driving, make sure that you do not drive into harsh weather, sleep well in previous nights, wear comfortable clothes and shoes, etc, etc…

For relatively long time, I was thinking that New Jersey driving textbook approach is better than Japanese one. Accidents happen. It is good to learn how to cope with accidents. But, quite recently, I started to think that Japanese approach might not be so bad. They are trying to teach us that we should determine not to cause an accident or should be well prepared so that we should not have any anxiety for an accident, so that we would be able to drive with full confidence.

I do not intend to give you my judgment to decide which is better. It may be the best if we can do both. We can be preventive maintenance conscious, at the same time conscious about coping with an accident. There are some small things that tell us cultural background and difference.