The Missing Element of Most Job Openings (and Many Companies)!

Smart, talented people care about where they work.

Good companies know this and strive to create a place where smart, talented people will feel excited about working. They know that potential employees care about things like:

  • the kinds of products they build / services they provide
  • the customers they serve
  • the tools they use
  • the people they work with
  • the compensation they receive to do this work

These are all things that companies cover in their job openings at length in an effort to sell you on applying to the firm. But one big element is missing from that list – something that plays a “crucial role in worker wellbeing and engagement” according to a 2006 Gallup study:

The role of managers and the corporation’s management style / culture.

It seems that most business skip out on the section that matters – how decisions are made, how performance will be evaluated, how the team communicates, etc. Obviously theses things are communicated implicitly – especially during the interview process, but  organizations don’t just “put it all out there”. There are notable exceptions to this rule that only showcase how rare it really is:

Unsurprisingly, these are also companies which have many, many people wanting to work there (Southwest Airlines had 90k applications for 830 hires in 2009). I believe being more open and clear about the way the organization is run is a competitive advantage. People who aren’t interested in the culture won’t waste your time – and the people who ARE interested in the culture become even more interested in working at the firm.

I understand that every manager is different – but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be approaches to management and the way things operate that are done that permeate throughout the company. We already expect to know about a company’s market, its product, and its team – why not its management style? I suspect there are a few reasons:

  • Many orgs don’t have a well-thought out culture / management process
  • Many orgs would be embarrassed to describe the culture / management process as it exists in their company today
  • Many orgs don’t see their culture / management process as a core part of their offering to employees
  • Many orgs don’t know what a good culture / management process looks like

Perhaps there are others – but none of the reasons I just listed are particularly good ones. (My not-that-inner hard-ass is yelling “No excuses!” right now.)

In today’s knowledge-based society where productivity comes from much more from creative output than from physical labor, and hiring the best performers is key – there are many good reasons to explicitly state your company’s culture and management style.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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  1. You could approach this question in many ways but ultimately I think the answer is that most companies are lazy and they are lazy because they can be. All of the companies you listed are relatively young and are attacking very competitive (saturated) markets. In order to survive they needed to develop unique management cultures as a competitive advantage. Show me a company without a well articulated and effective management culture and I will show you a company hiding behind barriers to competition (this might just be that competitors are equally lazy or profit opportunities aren’t sufficient to attract innovative competition).

    As a corollary, relatively few companies seem to recognize the importance of the increasing pace of change and innovation. If they expect next year to be mostly like this year then it is reasonable to manage through inertia and to simply try to eke out some efficiency/productivity here and there. Likewise, these companies will expect that if they pay market rate, provide good benefits, and pay lip service to all the other standard corporate window dressing then they will be able to attract as much talent as the next company. It is the few companies that recognize the increasing pace of change that emphasize talent development as a competitive strategy. I would recommend the article linked below (and the many others from John Hagel and John Seely Brown) for a very thorough and forward looking analysis of these issues:

  2. Company culture is a relatively new phenomenon in my generation. Although certain companies have understood its value, most of my peers don’t consider it as much of a factor when deciding where to apply or work. Things have begun changing with companies like Google and Facebook which exposes to the masses the potential of a well-funded company that truly cares about its employees. I am looking forward to company culture taking a front-seat position in the mind of tomorrow’s job applicants. Startup culture in general has its own mystique, which is why I’m grateful to be an intern at Livefyre. How has the iSocket culture affected you? Great post, Jason.

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  5. Great read – and great points. Having been part of far too many BAD companies, I’d say that for the most part they’re not concerned with these kinds of things at all. Furthermore, I think the reasons that companies like Southwest get so many applications (in addition to so many unemployed folks) is that people are dying to get away from these crappy organizations. I’m under the firm impression that the business culture as it has been is undergoing a profound change, and the companies like those you mentioned – Zappos, 37 Signals, etc. – will rise to the top of a new breed of company that make work life worth living and <gasp> fun! There will be linchpin COMPANIES in addition to Linchpin people.

  6. I think our generation is the first to really value company culture to the point where we try to define it in detail. I believe there is a correlation between the decline of the Factory model of work and the desire to create something better, where people are empowered.
    Many organizations have never thought about company culture before, not seriously–most have only paid it lip-service. This is definitely an edge when it comes to convincing people to join a team. Our eyes have been opened, and there is no going backwards to the old way of thinking and working.
    Defining what you believe in as a company guides every course of action you take.

  7. Sounds very much like the environment at Bell Labs where creativity was fostered, and discovery was the only thing that mattered. From this fertile environment came Unix, a good portion of the space program, and the laser. Cross discipline exchange was not just encouraged, but expected. Get a group of smart people, give them license to be creative, FUND the creativity, and see what happens. The same can be said of the attitude adopted at Xerox Parc in Palo Alto in the 1970’s which gave birth to the PC.

  8. One other approach is that there are companies who care
    about their management culture and really work on it. However they don’t communicate
    it as they not need to attract more potential candidates, especially the small
    ones or they would like to see who potential candidate has the searching skills
    to figure it out.

    For example, B-Open ( is a company with really open culture where
    the managers enabling the employees in decision making make them to feel that
    company’s goals are actually theirs. In this way the employers at B-open do not
    only use and build Comidor ( but also consider it as their “child”.

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