So what does an organization’s strategic plan have to do with you getting an internship or a job? Just about everything. The employer may receive 20-200 applications for a single position. Once education, skill sets, and experience are covered, there’s the giant, vague area of “corporate fit” — which is a huge factor as the employer determines whether you’re the right choice for the job.
Some companies, such as Ritz-Carlton, find corporate fit so important that they estimate they spend about $7,000 per candidate to determine if the person will share their corporate values and work as part of their mission to achieve their company vision. If there is a company you think you’d love to work for some day — Google, IDEO, government agencies, even Starbucks — be forewarned that they will assess any serious applicant for corporate fit. And yes, the importance of corporate fit applies to internships as well.
Organizations may determine corporate fit through a variety of means: interview questions, testing, or an assessment battery created for the position; auditions/demonstrations/presentations; and/or the all-important first impression based on a candidate’s appearance and attire. Any or all of these may be part of the process, and they may all be legally defensible hiring practices as long as the organization can align the selection criteria with the requirements of the position and their vision, mission, and values. So does it feel like they’re holding all the cards and you have none? Well, it’s not quite that bad; you can change the odds by doing a few simple things.
First, do YOU think you fit in this organization? This step is called self-selection. For example, by now Disney’s appearance requirements for their “cast members” are legendary. Do you share that squeaky-clean value and the desire to smile a lot at strangers? If so, you just might be who they’re looking for, even if the position you seek has nothing to do with interacting with Disney “guests.” Step one is to research the organization for yourself and determine if it is the kind of company you can see yourself in.
Next, now that you’ve done the organizational research, what have you learned about the company’s vision, mission, and values? What’s important to their business, and in particular, what should their customers experience? What results do they want to achieve? Do they have a particular commitment to the community they’re in? Is their reputation based on a specific quality that successful applicants should embody (e.g., leadership, teamwork, etc.)? Step two is to look for the keys to their recipe for success and bring it to the table. If you’re applying to Publix, what should you be ready to demonstrate through your behavior, interview responses, and even the cover letter sent with your resume? You got it — a passion for warm customer service.
Third, now that you’ve self-selected, and you’re prepared to show how you fit into an organization through everything from your resume to your appearance to your interview answer content, you want to “kick the tires” a little. You want to test the company on the importance of these aspects by using your interview to ask a few carefully crafted questions about those values that you believe you share. Form a question that shows that you share that value and that you’re committed to living that value as a future intern and/or employee, and soon they will see you as a member of their team!
Want to learn more? Join us for the fall 2013 Professional Success Series workshops to be provided on the Lakeland campus, with some topics also available in Winter Haven. Contact Career Services (firstname.lastname@example.org or Jbuchanan@polk.edu) or Internship Coordinator Lynn Chisholm at email@example.com for more information.