More than Happy Hour: Culture Fit in the Workplace

More than Happy Hour: Culture Fit in the Workplace

The most successful teams tend to be composed of diverse individuals who all support and challenge one another to grow: Ocean’s Eleven, Germany’s football team in the 2014 World Cup, or even BTS. When each individual within a team brings their own expertise to the table and manages to successfully collaborate with their partners, they portray the positive effects of finding a “good culture fit.”

When you’re evaluated as a good culture fit, it means that your behavior and professional philosophies align with the employer’s values and interprofessional dynamics. Companies are not only looking for the right technical skills, but also searching for people who fit in, and even more so, add to their teams.

Is the company all about Marvel Mondays or Hawaiian Shirt Fridays? Does your team make bets on March Madness games? Or, does everyone keep to themselves? There’s no right or wrong answer, but it may make the difference between an environment that someone just survives in versus one that person thrives in. Employees who match the company’s personality are more likely to be satisfied with their job.

Culture fit interview questions aim to understand the candidates’ core values and personalities in the context of the open position. These questions come in all shapes and sizes (just like us) and there’s (usually) no right or wrong answer. Below is a sample of questions to think over:

Why do you want to work here?

While this may seem like a routine and standard first question to ask, you would be surprised by the intricacies of its assessment. Hiring managers can learn which candidates have done their research and which ones have not. They will listen and judge your reasoning.

Are they all reasons for why you don’t want to continue working with your current employer? Candidates who focus purely on the negatives of their current workplace do not answer this question well. It actually makes you look like the problem.

It’s important that you answer this question with reasons as to why both parties would benefit: How would you benefit in working at this company and what would the company gain in return?

Do you prefer working on your own, or with a team?

All roles require working with other people, though some roles require more independent and remote work than others. Mention your preference, but also take time to explain that you’re flexible working both independently and on a team.

What was your biggest failure and how did you overcome it?

Questions about your greatest failure are geared to understand your resilience, self-awareness, and vulnerability. Take your time in setting the scene, moment of adversity, and thought process, including how you personally grew from this experience. Everyone has failed at something, so you are not and do not need to be perfect. What sets you apart is how you’ve integrated lessons from each failure into your work and life. Attempt to couple your story with the company’s core values.

What management style motivates you to do your best work?

Every leader has a different style of motivating their team and every individual is not motivated by the same methods. Are you motivated by developing others, improving processes, or creating from scratch? Regardless of the answer, demonstrate self-awareness.

Describe a time when something really unfair happened at work and how you handled it.

Did a coworker throw you under the bus in front of a client? Did your boss give you a big project right before you went on vacation? What are your true values? Is it your integrity, reputation, and/or family?

More than likely, the hiring manager will attempt to dig deeper to understand your perception of personal responsibility in contrast with your expectations of others. Additionally, he or she will want to know how you handled the situation. Did you express your concerns to the team/manager? Were you only concerned about yourself or the whole team? Be aware of making the situation purely about yourself. Hiring managers want to build a successful team where everyone will support one another and help each other grow.

Remember to take some time before your interview to prepare for these culture fit questions, as well as some others that you might come across and check out our post 7 Tips for Answering Interview Questions. Good luck!

Beware of Counteroffers

Beware of Counteroffers

You aced the interview and landed the job of your dreams! Now comes the part you’ve been dreading: resigning from your current company. You imagined the conversation with your boss a million times and feel confident as you walk into his office.

As you expected, your boss is upset. But then he catches you off guard by presenting a counteroffer: an attempt by your current employer to encourage you to stay.

Career changes are often scary and leave you wrought with anxiety about leaving the familiar comfort of your current position. You may also be nervous about starting over and proving yourself in your new position.

Don’t let familiarity cloud your judgment.

Just because the move is scary, doesn’t mean you should accept that counteroffer, which could leave you confused and create buyer’s remorse down the road.

Counteroffers when job huntingIs the new position a positive step toward advancing your career?

Will it be better for you than your current position?

If you answered yes, then pursue the new position.

Why Companies Make Counteroffers

Some companies never make counteroffers, while others do it often. Consider what happens when an employee resigns:

1. Morale will most likely to suffer. Your resignation will probably be viewed as an unfavorable reflection on the company and/or your supervisor and could stall progress on a project, increasing the workloads for your colleagues.

2. It costs the company money. It’s expensive, in terms of time, energy, and money, to replace an employee. Therefore, it may be a cheaper solution to entice you to stay. The counteroffer may include a raise, promotion, change in job title or description, and future promises.

Beware: This “solution” may be a stalling technique that could hurt you in the long run. By convincing you to stay, the company buys itself time to finish a big project, restructure employees or find your replacement.

Companies who have it in their policy to make counteroffers may not be the type you want to work for anyway. They usually have high employee turnover costs and morale problems, so they make counteroffers because they weren’t taking care of their employees like they should have in the first place. Counteroffers cost companies a whole lot less than offering a higher salary, better benefits or more incentives from the beginning.

What Does a Counteroffer Sound Like?

The goal of a counteroffer is to get you to stay, so they are usually filled with praise and adulation, and may sound something like this:

“But you’re in the middle of a big project! You’re much too valuable to the team to desert us now! We were going to wait until next month, but we were just about to give you a raise/promotion to show you how much we appreciate your work. Why don’t we make it effective immediately instead?”


“That’s so surprising! We had no idea you were unhappy here. Let’s discuss this further before you make a final decision. We’ll make it worth your while to stay.”


“We have great plans for you here! Why would you want to throw away all that you’ve accomplished here just to start over at the other company?”

Why Counteroffers Don’t Work

Counteroffers are often very tempting and flattering. Sometimes, you may even detect a threatening undertone—implying that if you turn down the counteroffer, you’re ruining your entire career.

Here are a couple reasons why counteroffers very rarely work:

1. No matter what anyone says, you will always be the person who tried to quit. Trust and acceptance between you and your boss, and among your immediate colleagues will most likely be lost.

2. The reasons you thought about leaving in the first place will still be there. The counteroffer is a band aid that may temporarily cover up the problems that led you to seek out a new job, but those problems will resurface.

Research shows that 80 percent of employees who accept a counteroffer end up leaving within six months and 90 percent leave within 12 months.

Consider the flattery that makes up a counteroffer: is it really about you?

Remember that every company has a budget. If your counteroffer involves an increase in salary, is it just the raise you would’ve received in a couple months?

Job Counteroffers - what do you need to know?Something to Consider When Presented with a Counteroffer

Before you make a decision, consider your current position and the new position as if you were unemployed. Which position holds the most real potential? The answer is most likely the new one, or you probably wouldn’t have accepted it to begin with.

What should you do with a Counter Offer?

Every recruiter out there has dozens of sob stories involving counteroffers. If you’re ready to leave a job, leave. The attractiveness of the counteroffer will not change your feelings about your current position in the long run.

When You Resign

Avoid any misunderstanding by submitting your resignation in writing. Email is usually the preferred method because it serves as a record of what was said.

In your letter of resignation, focus on the positive opportunity you’ve been offered with your new company and do not feel pressured to explain your reasons for resigning if you do not want to discuss them.

Handling your resignation right the first time is imperative for a clean and positive exit. Strive to be professional and courteous at all times during the process and offer to help during the transition time.

7 Tips for Answering Interview Questions

7 Tips for Answering Interview Questions

Unlike job descriptions, interview questions are much less straightforward in terms of revealing an employer’s expectations. Interviewers are trying to assess if you have the experience, skills, and talent to succeed in the role and if your personality and desired career trajectory complement their company. The most common pitfall is walking into an interview with the mindset that the employer is trying to get to know you. They are most certainly not. Every question interviewers ask is a mostly subtle, sometimes obvious method of getting to know you only in relation to the position at hand. So, make sure you adapt your answers based on the role and company. Below are 7 Tips for Answering Interview Questions, focusing on common interview questions, translated for clarity, and tips on answering them accordingly to help you ace your next interview.

Tips for Answering Interview Questions

1. Tell me about yourself. This may seem like a friendly conversation starter, but its purpose is far more profound. Remember that an interviewer only cares about you when in relation to the open position that they want to fill. By asking this questions, they are really asking you why you are the person they should hire for this role. Demonstrate your dual fit: describe your relevant experience and accomplishments along with your personality in relation to professional ability and personal career ambitions. This is your opportunity to provide a soundbite to employers of why they should choose you for the job. Don’t try to cover too many points or you risk losing the interviewer’s attention. Keep the message simple and clear.

Tell me about yourself

2. Why are you interested in this role? Many people approach this question as a way to compliment the position’s potential, the employer(s), and the company. But, this is already information the interviewer knows. They understand what they are offering, and they know you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t also value the role and company. What they really want to know is how much you understand the role and its responsibilities and the company and its mission. Show them your genuine passion and well-researched knowledge. You know what it is you are getting into, and exactly why you want to pursue this role at this company.

3. Where do you see yourself in five years? Employers want to know if your career trajectory aligns with what they have to offer as a company. If you want to branch off in a different direction, then you are not likely to stay in this position. This makes you, by default, a bad potential hire. If the position you are interviewing for continues you down the path you hope to go, then explain your goal and how this company is a great fit for you. Be sure to also demonstrate your knowledge of the company through your answer. If this position isn’t as obviously situated with your career trajectory, or you are unsure of your career goals, then explain to the employer what skills and knowledge you hope to gain through this role that ultimately lays foundational groundwork for your future. Incorporate the idea that this company is a contributor to your future, not a stepping stone for your success.

4. What is/are your weakness(es)? Interviewers already know what skills or experiences you are lacking or missing. What they are doing is giving you the chance to appease their concern of potential obstacles you may face in this position. They are expecting you to be self-aware and value self-improvement. Prior to the interview, go through the job description and your resume. Then, after identifying potential weaknesses, prepare responses that either explain how you will compensate or demonstrate how you have already overcome similar problems in the past. A common mistake that I hear through this question is, “I’m a quick learner.” Show them you are a quick learner with an example – one that has a successful result or accomplishment – rather than tell them. Unsupported claims do not travel far in terms of reliability.

5. Tell me about a situation or accomplishment you are most proud of. This is often misconstrued as a personality-only question. Remember: the employer only cares about you in relation to this job. So, pick an example that is most relevant to the current position and demonstrate why you can serve and, better yet, further the company’s needs. In order to deliver this answer in a clear manner, use the STAR method: explain the situation, walk the interviewer through your thought process, narrate your action steps, and describe the results.

How to answer interview question about accomplishment

6. How would co-workers and/or supervisors describe you? When answering this question, keep in mind that employers will have access to previous co-workers and/or supervisors through your references. They are assessing if your self-description, which displays your self-awareness, matches the descriptions provided by those who have already worked with you. Yes, they are definitely looking for the classic hallmarks of a good hire: team-oriented, ability to take initiative and problem-solve effectively, and motivated to learn/grow through a position. The trick is to make sure your answer will align with potential answers provided by your references.

7. Do you have any questions? Not only are interviewers assessing what is important to you through your inquiries, but they are also trying to see if you have been engaged with them throughout the interview process. Prepared questions are definitely recommended, especially questions aimed at the interviewer’s personal experiences at the company. They are also very common. Stand out by asking the interviewers about crucial topics they perhaps did not cover during the interview: company culture, potential challenges, potential for growth and so on. With these types of questions, you are essentially filling in the blanks information-wise and demonstrating to the interviewers that you have been paying attention and you want to fully understand the candidate profile they are seeking.

Before every interview, place yourself in the position of the recruiter, human resources professional, or hiring manager and prepare answers that highlight your specific fit for their role and for their company. Get feedback from family, friends, colleagues, and even from prior interviewers. Similar to your resume, interviews are not only about who you are and what you have done or can do but also about how you present your personality, skills, and experiences.

Tools for Setting SMART Goals

Tools for Setting SMART Goals

Setting goals, whether short or long term, is an ongoing and effortful process. Many people tend to set personal and professional goals with a to-do list mindset and superficial consideration. Goal-setting is adeptly illustrated by Aesop’s “The Tortoise and The Hare” fable. When we rush to set goals and consistently compare our progress against others, we become the hare who eventually loses the race. So, let’s take a look at the tortoise’s strategy. And find out how you can begin to set smart goals. 

  1. The hare ran the race to ridicule and beat the tortoise. The tortoise ran the race to prove he could run. They both ran for the specific reason why, a reason that reiterated or added to their self-image. Similarly, start with why you want to set goals in the first place. By understanding the origins of your ambitions, you can discern in which ways your goals will set you up to succeed. When goals tie back into your long-term vision, even if they are short-term in nature, you are much more likely to adhere to them. By framing the why behind the what, you can better define what your goals are and develop strategies to maintain your commitment to them.
  1. The extract above from the fable dually serves as a reminder of how to effectively define our goals. For the hare to be successful, it mattered solely on the tortoise’s progress – not his own. He is not the main character in his definition of success. But, the tortoise established a firm, self-relying reason why he proposed the race. After creating a list of goals, evaluate if how you define success relies on you or others. When you define success in relation to your ability only, you are more readily accepting of difficulties as challenges you can overcome rather than setbacks you cannot surmount. 
  1. The tortoise set an extremely effective goal following the SMART framework: run one marked distance (specific), timed by a judge (measurable), a task he knows he can accomplish (achievable), to prove he can run (relevant), starting as soon as possible (timely). When you adhere to the SMART framework of goal-setting, you provide an effective way to measure your progress towards a goal you know is both doable and supportive of your vision. The more ambiguous you are when defining your goals, the less likely you are in maintaining your drive to achieve them.
  1. As extensive as the process is in setting your goals, the journey to fulfilling them is equally as intensive. Unlike the hare, do not get complacent and procrastinate! The tortoise was able to achieve his goal because he remained steadfast in his pacing and his focus. Be sure to keep your goals in a visible area.  In this way, you will be frequently reminded of your potential destination. Schedule reminders to check on the progress of your goals weekly or biweekly so you can evaluate if your current strategy is effective enough. Goals should not be viewed as something to achieve in the future. They should be seen as daily tasks. If the process of achieving your goal is embedded within your daily routine, then you will be that much more likely to stick to it. 

With the holiday season around the corner, we all have the opportunity to get an early start on our goal-setting for the upcoming year! 


Stay motivated during the holidays with these tips

Stay motivated during the holidays with these tips

As we enter the holiday season, it is all too easy to lose momentum as we juggle personal obligations and professional responsibilities. The holiday schedule divides our work week into too-short-to-be-actually-productive fractions, and yet our to-do lists keep swelling in size. Between stress, enjoyment, and productivity, we sacrifice the latter. Instead of attempting to bulldoze through our multiplying commitments, it would be wiser to modify our approach altogether and adopt the holiday mindset to our advantage. Learn how to stay motivated during the holidays this year and get ready for the new year!

stay motivated during the holidays

5 tips to stay motivated during the holidays

  1. The holiday season often initiates and encourages self-reflection. Consider your accomplishments and setbacks for the year, both professionally and personally. Be sure to celebrate those wins and recall how you were able to achieve them. What was your mindset? What steps did you take? How did you handle obstacles, if any? Take those answers and apply them to your setbacks. By reflecting on how you navigated wins, losses, and ties, you can gain more insight and individualize your improvement.
  2. In conjunction, you can set achievable, reasonable, and effective goals allowing small wins in the short-term. This will tee you up for a successful next year. Do not overcommit and do not undersell yourself. For help constructing this balance, we have an article on goal setting for you!
  3. It’s not a secret that administrative tasks take up a disproportionate amount of time in many workloads. Taking the time to schedule out appointments, vacations, errands, and reservations ahead of time gives you the chance to visualize your upcoming week(s). You automatically make room to focus on your to-do list and even leave time for any necessary recuperation.
  4. Set yourself up for success in the coming year by using the holiday schedule for personal and professional outreach. People love to reconnect during the holidays and typically feel more generous in spirit! Take this chance to reach out to friends, networks, colleagues, and companies and seek out opportunities for growth. Even if these conversations are held unofficially, they can still be goldmines for feedback and ideas. Check out our article about the best time to look for a job to fully arm yourself for the new year!
  5. Change up your routine! The holiday season requires more from us: more tasks, more energy, more planning, more small-talk, more money, more reflection, more everything. Maximize time each day by waking up earlier to answer emails, using each night to plan or review the next day’s schedule, and shifting your obligations into an order governed by efficiency rather than convenience!

Enjoy Yourself

The main takeaway from this article is to remember the unparalleled benefit of the holidays. It is one of the best opportunities to truly leave work at work, mentally and physically. For some, it is spending our time laughing with family, and for others, it is spending alone time relaxing. No matter how you choose to celebrate the season, be sure to utilize it to your advantage at home and work. This is when you can clearly stay motivated during the holidays and be your most productive.

5 Tips for Crafting a Professional Resume

5 Tips for Crafting a Professional Resume

From a variety of surveys interviewing recruiters and human resources professionals, researchers have found that the average time these employers spend reviewing an application ranges from five seconds to fifteen minutes. For reference, they may take less time reading your resume than it takes Usain Bolt to run one-hundred meters. So, how do you convince a reviewer in five seconds to actually spend more time looking at your resume?

1. Rebrand your resume for each role.

Reviewers already have a predetermined checklist of what they’re searching for in an application, so do not make it difficult for them to find said information. But, how are you supposed to know exactly what they’re looking for? Well, they’ve already told you. The job description is a mostly concrete-relatively flexible checklist. There will always be some skills that are necessary, others preferred, and some that altogether may not be needed even though they’re listed. Sometimes, the job title can be adjusted depending on the candidate. So, do not wait for a job description to fit you one hundred percent before you apply. Rather use it as the essential template from which you should accordingly model your resume.

2. Keep the structure simple.

The less they have to scroll, the more likely it is that they will read more of your resume. Following your name and contact information, give employers a quick professional summary. Tell them in two to three sentences why you are the person for this role (experiences, hard and soft skills), and back any claims up with a quick reference to your accomplishments. Some resumes have an objective section in lieu of a professional summary, and sometimes these sections say something along the lines of “looking for an exciting and challenging new role in biotechnology”. In the first sentence they are reading about you, you present them with (1) knowledge of why you could be the person for this job and (2) information they already know.

After the candidate summary, list your core qualifications for the position. Most people opt for education here; but, given the experience over education trend, it would be wiser to list any technical and interpersonal skills. As a recruiter, I want to know whether you can perform the necessary and maybe even preferred skills for this position. It is easier to make a case to a client that a candidate has all the experience, but not the equivalent degree than vice versa.

Next, list your relevant experiences in reverse-chronological order with the job title, company, and employment dates. If there is a gap in your resume, I have seen some people provide a quick explanation as a separate entry within the list of experiences. As a recruiter, I take that as a positive that they understand this could be a red flag and jump to address the issue on their terms. When it comes to describing your experiences, opt for precision over detail and quantitative results over qualitative claims. If you feel that you cannot be more brief with your experience descriptions, then consider bolding certain buzzwords or terms that would otherwise get lost in a sea of sentences.

Usually, the end of entry-level candidate resumes conclude with education and certification sections. For more senior candidates, provide a list of selected publications, patents, conferences, and accolades. These are crucial for the recruiters and human resources professionals to portray you in the best possible light to the hiring managers. Additionally, when you provide a selected list, it demonstrates to all reviewing parties that you understand exactly what this position expects out of you and your ability through education and experience to fulfill those responsibilities.

Provide list of experience

3. Use common keywords and phrases.

For an ATS or a less scientifically familiar reviewer, using the specific phrases and biotechnology jargon decreases your odds of being automatically disqualified for the role. Make sure you double-check the spelling for these terms and provide the listed out title and abbreviation so you can cover all of your bases.

4. Experience is experience.

For entry-level candidates, there may not be a prior job that demonstrates your qualifications for the role or even just a prior job in the first place. Don’t be afraid to list relevant coursework in the education section – especially any experience with lab work – and/or relevant volunteer positions or unpaid internships.

5. Show them results.

No matter what level applicant you are, give the reviewers an idea of your ability to produce results from each experience. A previous track record of success and a demonstration of your initiative to achieve those results reassures recruiters, human resources professionals, and hiring managers that you would be a good hire.

Take the time to craft your resume into a strong and effective document. Look at it with the lens of a recruiter or human resources professional. See if within five to fifteen seconds it can answer the following questions:

  1. Do the person have the technical and soft skills for this role?
  2. Are there any unaddressed red flags?
  3. How have they contributed to their previous companies? Resumes are not only about what you have done but also how you present your experiences and skills.