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Issue 50

The Two Sides Of An Interview

Romulus Bucur
Senior developer & PM @Siemens
MANAGEMENT

The overall perception of the interview process is that of a scenario in which the roles are, apparently, clearly defined. The interviewer and the interviewee entertain a relationship similar to that of a student and his examining teacher, giving rise to a classic academic setting.

By contrast, the modern approach, considers that the roles go both ways. Throughout an interview, the parties act both as the interviewee and the interviewer.

The view most companies have, namely that the interview is a one-way process, is false. A candidate with a well-trained perception will use this opportunity to notice the traits which define the company’s culture. In other words, an interview is a direct reflection of the company’s profile.

Corporate culture

Josh Bersin, HR analyst, underlines the importance of corporate culture, stating that it has become “the hottest topic in business today”. The big software companies adhered to this trend and transformed themselves from an employer capable of offering you a job, to an environment with specific peculiarities.

The traits of a competitive work environment focus on creating a polyvalent frame where the professional evolution and the development of one’s personality are essential components.

Corporate culture has become the head title of important publications, even though this is a vague concept. Some define it as “what happens when nobody is looking.”

In reality, the phenomenon is more complex. The culture is characterized by a set of behavioral traits, values, artifacts, reward systems, rituals that contribute to the company’s profile. In other words, company culture can be ”felt” when you visit the headquarters of a company because it is instilled in the employees’ behavior, their enthusiasms, their work space.

The specialists state that there is a tight connection between the culture of a company and the level of employer involvement. The culture and the climate seem to have a common definition, apparently. The culture is the result of a long process of construction, whereas the climate is a component that can be changed easily.

A culture that is clearly spelt out by the company members is easy to notice and it represents an excellent means of transmitting a value set. In this way, employees feel comfortable.

As companies evolve, the culture can change. IBM went through many changes across the years. In the ’80s, IBM was a technology pioneer. However, gradually, the company’s culture changed and the company became a consultancy company. At present, the company is travelling back to its origins.

Sometimes the acquisition of other companies can damage one’s legacy culture. For example, HP, after acquiring Compaq, a quality-oriented culture, was combined with a low-cost view on production, which generated a remarkable challenge at a historical level.

Organizational/Management profiles

When we deal with corporate culture, we will encounter several common, well-defined patterns throughout the years. The first type of company would be that of a compact organization sometimes called a clan-like organization. This category is represented by value convergence, well-calibrated communication, well-defined space, mentoring. The second type of company would be based on the adhocracy model, represented by dynamics, entrepreneur-ship, risks taken at employee level, innovation, adaptability, cutting-edge services and products. The third type of company would be a hierarchical one represented by a rigid structure, control, coordination and efficiency, stability, time management. The fourth type of company, also called the market organization, has: orientation towards results, aggressive internal competition, customer-driven values.

Richard Branson, the famous magnate who created the Virgin chain, claims that the engine that drives a good corporate culture, has a simple, but extremely efficient solution: “There is no magical formula to create a success culture. You should treat your employees in the same manner you want to be treated. That is the key”. The people are the ones who contribute most to the success of a business, Richard claims. “If you treat your employees as adult, intelligent persons and you give them the opportunity to make mature decisions, you will create an environment where each of them can drive progress”.

Microsoft defines its success algorithm through the quality of its employees. “Remarkable leaders inspire. They attract talented people who perform at high levels. Behind a talented leader, you will find someone as talented as the leader.”

Compatibility with the psychological profile

The compatibility of the individual with the psychological profile of the company has become more and more important when the company’s success is generated by a pleasant, inner social environment.

While, until not so long ago, the interviewer used technical ability, as the main criterion in selecting candidates, companies with a well-defined culture select person’s whose specialty training and whose psychological profile are in sync with the corporate cultural values. For instance, if a candidate manifests aggressive competitive traits, a flawed ego management, the person will not fit in a harmonious social environment.

The salary – the employee’s main drive

Often have I met candidates whose interest lied only in financial values, all the other factors being of little interest. I do not want to diminish the importance of this issue, as long as the society relies on financial leverage. What I would like to underline is the fact that a candidates outlook can be forged by the corporate environment they come from. If the social needs, the comfort of the work environment, the professional climate have low importance, the candidates can project their expectations in the financial space, which works as a surrogate for all the other absent factors. These candidates are usually very attentive to every vacant position on the market, which can bring salary benefits, and immediately apply for the new offers.

Professional progress – the employee’s main drive

On-going technological progress has become a necessity which is specific to developers. This tendency is fuelled by the extremely rapid rate of technological evolution. A technology which is in vogue at the moment will start deprecating in 2-3 years. Therefore, a developer who is less competitive will risk falling into an inferior category. The main disadvantage of this state is professional deprecation.

This mechanism determined many developers to display a high interest in the companies which offer them support in this segment. Moreover, a considerable percent of all developers consider employing companies as ladders in their professional evolution. Therefore, they proceed in a similar manner when choosing the optional courses from universities and when they choose their work place. Once they gather a volume of technical information which they believe to be sufficient, these employees will look for another company where they can learn something else.

This permanent race for technology may indicate a low ability for self-education and individual study. At present, there are many high-quality information sources. Therefore, technological evolution can be insured by well-organized individual study.

The university format triggers a reactive secondary effect. The current student, the future employee, will expect the employing company to offer him the necessary instruments for professional evolution and to act as an academic supplier.

Being an employee in a company should trigger a maturation process where the reactive attitude should be replaced with a proactive one. Therefore, the developer should contribute to their own, personal technological improvement, constantly, studying the new technological advances on the market. The investment that companies dedicate to their employees’ professional advancement should be an aid that supports personal effort, but which should not replace the effort itself entirely.

Conclusions

The two features – professional progress and financial values – are well valued by the companies which built their market and promotion strategy along these triggers. By contrast, a candidate with less experience in choosing an optimal work environment is often attracted by the mottos companies use to promote themselves. These candidates usually lose the background picture in the process.

Mottos focus on a certain trait and overlook the bigger picture, by acting as a hallmark trigger. If a trait addresses and satisfies a candidate’s need, the bigger picture may not be an actual solution for the candidate. Understanding corporate culture comes to support and clear the bigger picture, by eliminating the confusion candidates may have. Actually, the candidate, immediately after finishing the onboarding process, will „feel” the culture and the specificity of the company.

The key to a successful interview lies in the interviewers’ ability to communicate the company’s culture clearly. Moreover, interviewers’ should not isolate aspects such as the technology and the salary rating. By the same token, the success of the interview can be quantified by determining the degree of convergence between the candidate’s values and the corporate values. Therefore, conveying the corporate culture background in a clear manner is of vital importance.

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