Skills and Certification Get You Noticed. Culture Gets You Hired.

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U.S. Air Force Maj. Lyndel Miller, 39th Air Base Wing Inspector General office director of complaints, reviews resiliency talking points. Incirlik Airmen are pushing forward with Operation GRIT, an initiative created by U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa to improve military culture, create safer communities and develop productive Airmen. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua)

As you transition out of the military, you are likely told that employers assess candidates and resumes for keywords, job alignment, certifications, skills and experience,

But they actually look for much more: they also evaluate for cultural fit.

Skills and Certifications Matter

To move through a job candidacy, certain requirements do need to be met. If an employer is searching for a project manager, for instance, they will evaluate a resume and online profiles for keywords around project management, program management and design, as well as certifications and training in those fields.

Some employers may only look for basic, introductory experience. Others measure experience in years, desire advanced certifications and look for examples where the candidate has worked in similar companies or industries.

Coming from the military, you’ll be focused on translating what you did in the military to what the employer seeks. Perhaps your role wasn’t called “project manager” but the functions and duties were similar to those of one. You’ll want to ensure the words “project management” shows up on your resume and online profiles to get their attention and show skill relevancy.

Why Culture Matters

But skills and experience are only part of the equation to getting hired. In my experience of hiring within corporations and nonprofits and now consulting with them, how well a candidate would fit in with the teams, culture and vision of the company matter a lot.

“Culture” describes the values, belief systems and personalities a company intentionally cultivates and nurtures. Time, effort and dollars are invested in designing, building and protecting this culture. Culture describes how employees feel about their job and employers, their teams and the direction the company is headed. Culture also describes the environment and atmosphere (what it’s like to work there) of the company.

Cultural beliefs and practices are promoted from the CEO and board of directors to the newest entry level hire.

When a company evaluates cultural fit with a candidate, they are assessing something subjective: Does this candidate feel like one of us? Do they believe in the same mission, values and goals? Are they aligned with us philosophically? Will they raise the talent level of our team?

If an employer mistakenly hires someone who doesn’t align culturally it can lead to low morale, team dissatisfaction and stress on the job. The employee will likely feel out of place and unhappy -- and that could negatively reflect on their job performance and outlook at work.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Culture

Today, as teams are working remotely, the focus on culture is at an all-time high. Companies that promote a fun, lively and family-like company culture are seeking ways to keep teams bonded and morale and enthusiasm high. Companies with a fast-paced competitive culture are looking at incentives and team building exercises to keep employees focused on the bigger goals.

It’s a challenging time for all.

When a job candidate approaches the employer with a firm understanding of the company’s culture (gathered from web research, informational interviews and online media) and can show alignment with the company’s vision, mission and purpose -- and the candidate has enough relevant skills and experiences -- the candidate is highly considered. Skills and experience alone don’t get the job -- cultural fit seals the deal.

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