Company Culture Seen from an Interview

I’ve been talking a lot about company culture lately. 

While I think a lot of businesses are starting to recognize how important it is, there’s still a long way to go before it’s a huge, consistent consideration with every company. 

Especially in the sales department. 

Anyway, all this talk about it reminded me of a disastrous interview I had several years ago. 

I was invited to interview for a sales role at a company that I was very interested in. It would have been a remote position, giving me the freedom to work on my own time. And I thought their mission was great and could help a lot of people. 

The first interview was over the phone, and it went well. And then I had the second interview… and that’s where everything went downhill fast.

The second interview was with the sales manager, and it was a video interview. Right off the bat, he told me that he had three monitors going at the same time and that he would be multitasking during the interview. “Just thought I’d let you know in case you were wondering why I wasn’t looking at you the whole time.”

Um, okay.

This had never happened before in any other interview I’ve ever had, and I’ve had A LOT of interviews over the years.

I tried to shrug it off thinking I might be making a big deal about nothing. (Even though, big deal or not, it’s just bad etiquette.)

But my alarm bells were appropriately rung because he barely looked at me at all. 

For the record, most productivity experts talk about how multitasking decreases the quality of your work. Just saying. 

So I got through the interview as well as I could. Because I was competing for his attention, I was drawing out my answers a bit waiting for eye contact. 

After it was over, as I usually do, I asked for some feedback. He said that I had good energy and excellent sales skills, but he was concerned that I would struggle with being concise during conversations with prospects. 

Huh. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m a classic over-explainer. I’m aware of this. And it gets worse when I’m feeling pressured. Kind of like how I was feeling pressured to fight his twenty other tasks during the interview. 

Needless to say, I wasn’t offered the job and I wouldn’t have taken it if I had been. 

That one interview was enough to make me question the kind of culture the company, or at least the sales team, had built. Being a mostly remote company, I was already unsure about it, but that kind of cinched it. 

Hiring is hard and expensive and can take a lot of trial and error to find the right fit. So when a sales leader isn’t even going to dedicate their time and attention to a new hire interview, how much were they going to give to the people on their team? And what kind of culture can you foster if you’re not fully available to them?

Culture is a hard thing to do well at any company, but it’s even harder when people are working remotely. Good company culture isn’t about a ping-pong table or a keg with free beer in the corner. It is about making sure that everyone on the team has bought into the mission, they want to work to achieve the goal, and that they feel valued while doing so.

To feel valued, the team has to know that they can get the undivided attention of their managers when they need it. And, if that interview was any indication for how he usually operates, that didn’t seem to be the case. 

But this isn’t about complaining about this one guy or company. And it might not even be true. It’s possible that he just had a ton on his plate that one day but didn’t think to reschedule the interview, and that company’s culture was amazing and super supportive.

But the bigger discussion remains, especially about culture in sales.

As younger generations begin to dominate the workforce, culture becomes more and more important. There are a lot of people talking about how to keep the millennials and gen z’s invested and how to work effectively with them. Showing them that they matter is the best way to do that. Or it’s at least the first step.

The other important part of a company’s culture is ensuring that every individual feels like they are bringing value and impact in their role. It’s hard to be super jazzed about your company’s values if you don’t feel like you’re contributing to them. 

Making sure that everyone is in a role where they can excel, have the resources they need to kill it, and the support they need when they’re struggling fuels that goal. 

Right now, with COVID and everything, businesses are learning just how hard it is to keep company culture alive when whole teams have started to work from home. But it’s not impossible. 

Regular engagement during group calls helps a lot. But the most important thing is to make sure that everybody still gets focused, one-on-one time when they need it. A lofty goal, for sure. But necessary.

Of course, this one blog isn’t going to change company culture nation-wide. And there’s a lot more that goes into it than what I’ve talked about here. But my goal is to keep the conversation going. Because, yes, it really is that important.

And who knows? Maybe that interviewer from so long ago reads this and thinks, “hmm, I wonder if he’s talking about me…”