Last year I had a real hard time finding a job, I applied to over 50 roles, had 20 phone screens, 12 on-site interviews with over 50 people (including five founders). Two were public companies, the rest super hot series B/C funded SaaS; all had 4+ star reviews on Glassdoor. These companies exude startup culture, but I’m calling bullshit.
9/10 founders who stand on stage and rant about “hiring for culture” are lying. Throughout my entire job search process, only one single person asked me about culture. I was dying to talk about it, I read every single Glassdoor review of every company, but IMHO a candidate should have more pressing role-specific questions than “tell me about the culture around here.”
Had I been asked, my playbook response (lifted from Cameron Sepah, who was inspired by Netflix) was…
“Your company’s culture is who you hire, fire, & promote.”
I love it, simple, brash, depressingly aligned with my experience. But I think there’s more to it…
“Your company’s culture is who you hire, fire, promote, & remember.”
I remember working at Hewlett Packard in 2001 when Bill Hewlitt passed away. I was 23 at the time, I had never really experienced “culture,” but over the next four years, I had a front-row seat to the destruction of the 60 years of culture built into the iconic “HP Way.” It vanished, it was a tangible thing, and then it was gone. I still feel that today.
Fast forward ten years, Aug 24th, 2011. In the middle of our weekly ops meeting, the entire company gets a resignation email from Steve Jobs. We paused, read the email, told stories, and cried. Then we did what Steve would have wanted; we finished the fucking meeting. Six weeks later, he passed away. The magic of what Steve built didn’t hit me until the month after he passed, and Walter Isaacson wrote, “Jobs’ best invention was Apple – the company – itself.” Over the next year, led by Tim Cook, we would defy the haters and double our market cap. That was a special time, that was culture.
Last week we (cough, cough) graduated a Bettser to bigger and better things; I never really got to know the guy, but each time we got someone a job and triggered Ambition, he would celebrate like his kid just won the gold medal. It’s one of those things I never really appreciated until this week; after he was gone. You can’t measure it, you won’t find it on a resume or slide-deck, but if it leaves an impression; that’s culture.
Spoiler alert, the company who asked me about culture was LinkedIn🤦♂️