I’ve been working at a small nonprofit in an entry-level position for a couple of years. I recently decided it was time to start looking for a new job and have been actively applying and interviewing for the past few months.
When I took my current role, I didn’t really consider organizational fit during the interviews. I was just happy to find work! But now that I’ve been working for a while I’ve realize how important it is to fit with the culture of the nonprofit I’m going to work for.
So my question is, how do I find out more about the culture of the organizations I’m interviewing with, and how do I figure out if I would fit in?”
Congratulations Cara on securing your first role. Don’t be too hard on yourself – one needs to get the first job to understand what one likes and doesn’t like. You’ll find as you migrate through your career, that you’ll get better at assessing the type of working culture you fit in best.
I encourage people early in their careers to think about their career in 5-year increments. While it’s important to strive for fit, make certain you can learn as much as you can early on so that you can leverage that experience when interviewing for your next role. Here’s how you can determine if the culture is right for you.
Two key pieces of advice:
1. Interview behind-the-scenes. Speak with current or past employees of the organization about the working culture. Look at how long they worked with the organization and ask them key questions (see below), if they’re willing to talk.
2. During the interview, ask your questions strategically. For example, when the interviewer turns to you to ask if you have any questions, ask questions that will help you to understand the culture. Here are some questions to help you get a better sense of the organization’s culture.
- Why did you join this organization? What keeps you here? – In response to this, people tend to reminisce and talk about when they joined. Length of stay is a key indicator and the longer the stay suggests that the individual is happy and is committed to growing the organization. The “why” is equally important. Understanding what attracted the individual will inform you about an opportunity you may not know about or it will confirm what you are looking for. Look for real pride in the response.
- How does the organization support professional development and career growth? – Although it is challenging, especially for small nonprofits to provide a budget for professional development, it may be important to you. Understand what the budget is.
- Is risk-taking encouraged, and what happens when people fail? – If you are a risk-taker and like to try new things, look for an answer that indicates that people are rewarded for new ideas. Conversely, if you are more comfortable with structure and less of a risk-taker, you may be uncomfortable surrounding by a competitive culture.
What’s key, is to look for consistent responses. Is the interviewer giving you similar responses that you are hearing from your behind-the-scenes contacts? Do you like what you hear? Most importantly, can you see yourself succeeding in the organization? If the answer is yes, perhaps you’ve found your fit. A great resource for determining fit is The Muse.
As the President of crawfordconnect, Deborah Legrove’s goal is to help Canada’s non-profit organizations make positive changes to our world. Deborah brings a depth of experience to crawfordconnect from her 30 years of work in healthcare, social services and higher education in Canada and the USA. Since 1999 she has been connecting Canada’s charities and nonprofits with executives, managers and fundraisers who have the experience, skills and confidence that enable these organizations to achieve their objectives.