As Winston Churchill once said: “We make a living by what we get, we make life by what we give”. And when considering a job change, we often focus on the financial side without really having a good understanding of a company’s culture.
Keeping our fingers crossed that our own values will be reflected in the company’s approach to business and how it manages its employees, we tend not to consider the relevance and importance of the prospective employer’s work in the community. But exploring this during the interview process and reflecting on the answers will hold important clues which will allow any candidate to decide whether the interviewing company is the right one to join.
Usually, the main motivations for changing jobs are focused around earning more money and a desire for professional development and increased responsibility, and these considerations typically form the basis of most questions asked by a candidate. We will attend interviews and across the course of that process, which usually lasts no more than a few hours, we have to decide whether that is a place we want to work. Unless we already know someone employed there, or know others who can recommend it, we have very limited knowledge of the company’s culture beyond the reputation it has developed in the industry.
Few interviewees ever consider asking about the charitable work carried out by private sector companies, but this is important and the answers can give an important insight into the company’s culture and can help candidates reach a more informed decision on whether it is the right opportunity and role for them. Which charities does the company support, why and how were they chosen? What does the company do to support its partner charities? Are employees given opportunities across the year to work with the partner charities?
These are some of the questions that are important to ask and having worked for a number of private sector consultancies during my career and having a number of friends and former colleagues working for other practices, it is my experience that charity work is usually a low priority. This does not mean that those companies are not good places to work with a culture of support and encouragement for their staff, but the message is more difficult for the interviewer to communicate and will often leave the candidate hoping that they are making the right choice when they accept a new role.
However, for many consultancies, a positive approach to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a key part of the firm's culture. For example, at Boyer, each office partners with at least one local charity, picked annually by the employees in that office. Other elements of good practice for firms include regular money-raising events, initiatives held throughout the year and providing employees a day’s CSR leave each year. Again, Boyer does this and staff are encouraged to take advantage by going out to work with our charities and lending them professional support where it is needed.
Firms who take a positive approach to CSR are able very quickly and effectively to communicate the company’s culture during an interview, giving the candidate confidence that they know when accepting a position, that the company’s values reflect their own.
As Winston Churchill quite correctly observed, we need to make a living and we will get more enjoyment in life by giving. Therefore, asking questions of a company’s CSR work will help you to make the right decision when interviewing for your next role.
Mark Batchelor is a director at consultants Boyer