Job Hunt: Aligning with an Employer

Human behavior can be summarized in one word: incentives. Properly incentivized, we’ve watched people eat strange insects, race around the world on scavenger hunts, and starve themselves alone in the woods. Incentives drive people’s behavior.

Employers are people too. Despite interviews, questionnaires, references, and assessments,  employers are just trying to understand three things. Regardless of how they pursue their answers, employers want to know:

  • Can you do the work?
  • Do you want to do it?
  • Will you fit well with the others?

I refer to these as the 3 Cs of hiring: Capable, Curious, and Culture. 


Can you do the work? This underlying question speaks to skills, abilities, and experience. These factors come together to increase an employer’s confidence in you to meet their needs. The best applicants make it clear they are capable without much poking or prodding.


Do you want to do the work? Believe it or not, I’m quite an accomplished lawn mower. Since middle school, I’ve been paid to cut grass. While I’m capable of doing the work, I am comfortable never touching a lawn mower again. Knowing humans work best when personal interest is involved, employers work to ensure team members would be engaged. Many applicants are more interested in the money than the work itself.


Will you fit with the team? Google conducted a massive research study about effective teams. After studying thousands of teams, they found no clear correlations that make a high performing team. It wasn’t until they started looking at psychological safety did they find a pattern. Teams willing to take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed outperform. 

A great culture is not about ping-pong or beer Fridays. It’s about fostering a safe place for ideas and conversation to flow without fear or shame. Employers and hiring managers want to ensure the new hire will not detract from their staff’s experience.

Sharing directly from Google’s research, these are the five key dynamics that set successful teams apart:

  1. Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  2. Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
  3. Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
  4. Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  5. Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?

While employers are asking these three questions, culture (with psychological safety) has been proven to be the most important contributor to a high performing team. What does that mean for you? Explore ways to model and clearly represent that in the hiring process.

People rarely make the best choice. They choose what they understand the best. And that includes employers. How might you use the interviews, reference checks, and assessments of getting a job to reinforce the reality that you are capable, curious, and fit for their culture?

Get notified as soon as new content becomes available. Stay in the loop.