Should you be worried about ‘cultural fit’?

Female engineerWhen you hear of companies ‘interviewing for cultural fit’, that often means that recruiters are looking for someone with a specific set of attitudes, assumptions and biases that they think will fit neatly into the existing cultural framework of the company. This can be problematic because it can damage efforts to increase diversity, resulting in a workforce that may look diverse but is actually made up of people who all think the same way. Says the Harvard Business Review:

“We might be creating a situation in which companies will be very diverse in appearance, but intrinsically homogenous. They will be hiring the same profile of people even though they might have very different backgrounds. Thus the company will appear diverse — but we know that appearances can be deceiving.”

That doesn’t mean that culture isn’t important, but from the candidate’s point of view, not the employer. The important cultural question is, does this company’s culture fit with my personal values?

If, as a woman in STEM, you rate a company’s ethics and culture highly, you are not alone. The Futuretrack study by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit found that “socially useful work” ranked higher than “competitive salary” in qualities graduates were looking for in jobs. And women were more likely than men to say that “the opportunity to perform socially useful work or work for an ethical organisation” was important.

Interviews are a two-way street

Interviews are always a two-way street: You are evaluating your future employer just as much as they are evaluating you.

“I’d recommend thinking about the characteristics of a business culture where you’d be happy and successful,” suggests Caroline Plumb, founder of Fluidly. “What type of place gets the best out of you and why. Then think about what you can bring to that sort of business, how you’d be able contribute and how you’d shape it. Demonstrate what you can bring and add, rather than how you ‘fit’.”

As you’re searching for jobs to apply for, take a look at the company’s background try to find out what kind of culture they have.

“Do a little research before the interview to find out what to expect from the company’s workplace culture, and check that your values are aligned,” says Inga Rudzitis, Operations Manager from Float. “I’d always encourage people to be open and honest in an interview, so it’s not really different for questions about cultural fit. If the company’s values fit with your own then you can just answer from the heart, which always come across better than an overly rehearsed answer that could be completely fabricated. I know that can be really difficult advice to hear when you’re job-hunting as it can feel like there’s a lot of pressure to “get it right”, but the thing about culture is that there isn’t a right and a wrong type. Some people just prefer different types of working culture, so questions about culture aren’t about determining your skill or your value.”

Faye Whitlock, head of talent at GoCardless, an online payments provider, suggests that candidates “can often get a great insight into a company’s culture through its website, LinkedIn and other social media channels.”

Ask about culture in your interview

If it’s not clear what kind of culture a company has, or if you’re not sure about whether you’d like to work there, don’t be afraid to bring it up in the interview.

“You can always ask your interviewer or recruiter for guidance on these too if it isn’t apparent,” says Whitlock. “We like to be asked why we enjoy working at GoCardless, or what are opportunities there are for career progression. A good question is “What’s a typical day in the life like…” We try to have people with different departments, tenure and seniority [in an interview], so people can ask about different cultural aspects of the company.”

Rudzitis explains, “We try to be quite upfront about what our culture is like so that applicants have a good idea of what to expect. For example, in our job ads for engineering roles we bring attention to the fact that our engineering team works closely with our marketing team because in lots of companies these departments are really separated from each other, in terms of physical distance as well communications, decision-making, and working practices. We also like to show interviewees our office and introduce them to a few members of the team, so we don’t get a huge number of questions about our culture as applicants can see what it’s like for themselves.

“When we last hired for a part-time role we got quite a few questions about that: how many others worked part-time and how that would impact the way they worked with others. We’ve also been asked before why we like working at Float and what would be challenging in a particular role. It’s great to hear questions like this because it also tells us something about what the applicant is looking for in work culture, and we can improve our future job adverts to make sure we’re really getting across why we think Float is a great place to work.”

Culture is important, but as a metric for you as a potential employee to decide whether you will be happy working for a particular company.


Xero logoThis post was originally written for the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM which was sponsored by Xero, a beautiful, easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors. It has over one million subscribers in more than 180 countries, with more than 250,000 of those in the UK.

Could flexible working be right for you?

Woman working in cafeIf you’re returning to the workforce after a career break, fractional – the new name for part-time work – or flexible work might be exactly what you need to get you back in the swing of things. With the competition for STEM talent heating up, more and more companies are offering flexible working schedules.

“Returners often need to balance their return into the workforce with a decreasing caring workload, eg as children go to school,” says Caroline Plumb, founder of Fluidly, cash flow management software.

People are attracted to fractional and flexible working arrangements for many reasons, not least of which is balancing work with caring responsibilities, which still rest predominantly on women’s shoulders.

A ‘fractional’ job is a part-time role where the employee works for a specified fraction of a full-time equivalent (FTE) role, for example a 0.5FTE role would be for half of a standard 35-40 hour working week. Flexible roles allow employees to choose when they work, often including hours outside the standard work day. They may also include the option to work from home. Both fractional and full-time roles can be worked flexibly.

Flexible working offered as standard

In the UK, anyone who has been employed for six months may request flexible or fractional working, and companies are increasingly offering fractional and flexible roles as standard.

Inga Rudzitis, Operations Manager from Float, a cash flow forecasting app, says, “Our founder, Colin Hewitt, has always been keen for Float to be a family-friendly place to work, so we’ve always been flexible about things like school runs and making it to sports day.”

“I think it’s important for employers to think about this intentionally and build this into their values so that there’s trust and employees feel comfortable managing their work and personal lives. If you lay this foundation, you can adapt to people’s changing circumstances and have open conversations about what needs to change and what will work for all parties,” she says.

Exactly how these roles are managed can vary not just from company to company, but from employee to employee.

“As someone who’s personally taken three periods of maternity, my experience is that there is no one-size-fits-all process for any returning process,” says Plumb. “Employers need to support not just with a variety of potential working arrangements, but easing the transitions around returning – from building confidence, ensuring there are no limits on potential and being willing to flex arrangements over time as needs change and children grow up.”

Rudzitis agrees: “By its very nature, flexible working can mean so many different things! There are some structured methods, such as specifying core hours, but for us at Float it’s more of an attitude. We know that people have lives outside of work, so being flexible means being adaptive to people’s circumstances. Sometimes people will leave early to do the school run and work from home for the rest of the afternoon, others prefer to stay a bit later in the office and have more of the morning to themselves.”

Flexible working is not just for carers

Not all flexible workers choose that model because of caring commitments. It’s also valuable for those who want to get more qualifications, or for students who are transitioning from a higher degree into the workforce.  

“I started working part time on four days a week to give me time to finish my post-graduate degree,” says Rudzitis, “and decided to continue working this way after graduating. So flexible working for us includes some remote and fractional working.”

When we talk about remote working, where staff work from a location that’s not the office, we often think about jobs such as software development where workers need to spend a lot of time focused on specific tasks. But the very nature of flexible working is, itself, flexible.

“I think any kind of role can be flexible,” says Rudzitis, “you’ve just got to be intentional about how you set it up. You’ve got to know what’s important to you, and how that can work with different types of working patterns. If team meetings are important, make sure any remote workers can join via video call, and make sure they get a chance to speak. Make sure that your part time workers can join by scheduling them at the right time.”

Communication is key

A lot of employers now use communications software that makes flexible working even easier. Tools like Slack, video calling, Google Drive, Dropbox and even project wikis are often used by teams even when they are sitting next to one another at the office, so extending that to provide a communications platform for remote workers is easy.

“We use Slack to communicate a lot,” says Rudzitis, “even when we’re in the office, so people who are working from home don’t miss out on the important things that are being discussed. Having said that, as a company we’re looking ahead to the future and are considering whether we might want to set up an international office in a year or two, so we’ve already started to talk about how we’d manage that.”

Fractional and flexible roles are becoming more common as the technology improves, and as attitudes become more accepting. Some industries, such as engineering, are so short of skilled employees that companies are radically rethinking how they work and how they can tempt women back into the workforce.

If you’re finishing off a doctorate, caring for elderly relatives, or would like to work alongside caring for your children, then fractional and flexible working could be for you.


Xero logoThis post was originally written for the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM which was sponsored by Xero, a beautiful, easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors. It has over one million subscribers in more than 180 countries, with more than 250,000 of those in the UK.

Five ways to highlight your skills in your CV

When applying for jobs, whether you’re a recent graduate, more experienced, or a returner, it can be difficult to know how to get your your CV into tip-top condition. Don’t worry. You’re not alone!

We’ve distilled some of the best advice on how to create a great STEM resume that highlights your skills and packages your work and life experiences in a way that shows off both your technical expertise and personal strengths that employers are looking for. These tips will help you stand out from the crowd when you’re writing your CV as well as when you are speaking to recruiters.

Make sure to tick the basic boxes

In your CV, and also discussions with recruiters, don’t get so nervous that you forget to include basic information. List your technical skills and experience right at the top or early on in the conversation with the recruiter. If you’re a recent graduate, include all your relevant coursework and projects, plus any placements or internships you’ve had.

“An effective resume must convince prospective employers that hiring you benefits their business,” says Leslie Toth, a professional resume writing coach, who has posted a guide to writing a STEM CV on Slideshare. Your CV must be concise, no more than two pages long, but not boring. Don’t just list the jobs you’ve had, talk about your responsibilities in each position, and skills you’ve developed.

Choose skills that are relevant to the position

When applying for jobs, think in terms of quality not quantity. It is tempting to want to increase your chances by spamming employers with an identikit CV, but this is self-defeating. Don’t apply for positions that you really want just for the sake of it — that’s a waste of your time and the recruiters’ time.

You want to be happy in the job that you do, and you’ll have a better chance of landing your dream job if you focus on high-quality jobs that stretch you a little bit.

Read the job description carefully, make a list of the experience, skills and knowledge that the employer is asking for, and highlight the parts of your CV that are relevant. Do not be put off if you find that a job is asking for a bit more than you think you have to offer. Job descriptions often include shopping lists of qualities which include every single thing the recruiter can think of. That doesn’t mean they expect you to tick every box and, indeed, research shows that your male peers will be applying for jobs even when they don’t meet all the criteria. So take a chance and let the recruiter decide if you have sufficient experience.

When you speak with recruiters during the job fair, highlight the skills you have that are relevant to the roles and company that you are speaking with. Remember, one of the fastest ways to make a great impression is to show that you’ve done your homework and researched the company as well as their products and services. It is a great way to demonstrate that you see yourself as meeting their needs.

Look at the CVs of researchers you admire or want to work with

If you run into writer’s block while you are working on your CV, or trying to think of things to say during your chat with recruiters, Smith College in the US has a great guide to writing a STEM CV. They have this excellent piece of advice: Review the CVs of “researchers you admire or seek to work with (generally available online), as these can provide good examples to follow.”

And Prospects has a variety of sample CVs in different styles, such as chronological or skills-based, and for for different types of job, such as academic, teaching, or technical jobs. Take a look through the examples and let them spark ideas on how to package your own skills and experience.

Transferable skills are important

One of the most important bits of job hunting advice you will ever get is that all skills are transferable.

Whether you’re a graduate with work experience opportunities through internships, in your first or second job, or are returning to work after a career break, it’s certain that you have more transferable skills than you think you do. These are skills might be specific, such as knowing how to use Microsoft Office, understanding how spreadsheets work, take minutes in a meeting, or organising a schedule, or they might be more personality-related, like being able to communicate clearly, work in a team, take direction and respond well to feedback.

CV writing service Craft Resumes gives this bit of concrete advice: “For students just starting out in their careers, adaptive skills are shown in their coursework, while transferable skills are established in their internship or any summer jobs. Some graduates may omit these skills thinking they are irrelevant, but they do carry weight in your job search efforts.”

Even temporary jobs in unrelated fields like hospitality or retail can prove that you have good transferable skills. They are worth highlighting when they fill gaps in your subject-specific experience, but keep this experience lower down in your CV, below any technical skills and directly relevant experience you have.

Pay attention to detail

Finally, one of the most important skills for any candidate is attention to detail. Entry level roles are often quite competitive, and recruiters will reject a CV with spelling or grammar mistakes, so make sure your CV is well written and free of errors. Ask a friend or colleague to proofread it and, for a final check, read it out aloud — that will highlight any mistakes or phrases that read badly.

Your CV isn’t a static document, it should change as your job search evolves, and as you learn what employers respond well to and what might be missing. Don’t just write one CV and use it for everything, rather, create a suite of CV templates for different types of job, and then tailor your CV specifically for the job you’re applying for right now. It might feel like a lot more work, but will get easier with practice, and will increase your chances of landing that all-important interview.

Your CV will make your first impression, so work hard on making it a good one.


Xero logoThis post was originally written for the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM which was sponsored by Xero, a beautiful, easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors. It has over one million subscribers in more than 180 countries, with more than 250,000 of those in the UK.

Relocating to a new town

Sydney by DougIf your dream job takes you away from friends and family, we have you covered with some great strategies for settling into a new job, a new town and a new social scene. It might be slightly daunting at first, but fortunately there are some tried and tested ways to settle in quickly.

First off, to quote the wise sage Douglas Adams: Don’t Panic! Every graduate feels a bit of an adjustment going from university to the world of work. Up until you get that first job, your social life is packaged quite nicely. You have your classmates and a lot of structured ways to socialise. But the same can be said for life after uni too. Moving to a new town is always a bit daunting, but there are lots of ways that you can easily connect with new people and soon feel right at home.

Finding friends at work

Let’s go for the low hanging fruit first. Work can be a great starting point for making connections, and businesses are getting much better welcoming new employees. If you’re working for a major international company, they might even have a formal onboarding process to not only help you learn the ropes but also to give you a group of peers to build connections with. If you aren’t given a welcome pack within your first few days, ask if there’s anything available.

Many larger companies also have employee groups that organise social activities outside of work hours. These might be general, or they might be organised around shared interests such as hiking, board games or films. Ask your new colleagues if anything like that exists, or take a look on your company intranet.

Keep an ear out too for social activities that are being organised by members of your immediate team. They’re good opportunities not just to get to know your colleagues, but also to ask for advice on what to do in town. And who knows, you might find someone who’s got the same interests as you.

Be careful not to work so much that you leave yourself little time to make connections in your new surroundings. While you might be throwing yourself into work both to impress your new managers, or because you don’t have any social connections yet, you’ll be happier if your life is more balanced between work and play.

What’s on in town?

Another great way to find like-minded people in a new community is to look for local clubs, groups and organisations. Whether you’re into sports, arts or crafts, or theatre, hobbies are a great way to find new friends. You can even start doing this research before you make the move and, if you’re fortunate enough to have a number of great job offers, it might help you decide on which opportunity is the best one for you.

If you don’t already have a hobby, or can’t find a local group that you like the look of, take a look at what courses are available. You could take up painting, dance, or rock climbing! There are plenty of activities that don’t require you to go with someone else, so it doesn’t matter if you have a partner to take or not.

Equally, look into local gym membership and see what classes are available there. Going to the same place each week, bumping into the same people each week, is a good way to start to meet new people. Just makes sure you smile and say hello to people, to make sure that they realise you’re open to a conversation.

The value of sharing a flat

Author Sarah Abell, who has written a book about developing authentic relationships, also suggested in The Telegraph that you might consider moving into shared accommodation at first.

Most people have experienced sharing a flat or house during university and the years directly afterwards, and you might feel that you now want space to yourself. But sharing accommodation will introduce you to a handful of people that you’ll see regularly and who probably already know the area and can give you advice.

Use social media to find local groups

Do be careful, though that you don’t disappear into Facebook, where all your friends and family from back home are. It might feel familiar, but it is no substitute to making connections where you live now.

But you can use social media productively to help you find activities and friends. Look for groups that support new people in your community, and do ask questions. Once you’ve been in your new community a while and have connected with people there, Facebook’s new events service will even suggest nearby events that your new friends have discovered and are going to.

And once you are settled in, be active in welcoming other new arrivals and offering them help and advice. You might just turn out to be the new friend that they need!


Xero logoThis post was originally written for the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM which was sponsored by Xero, a beautiful, easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors. It has over one million subscribers in more than 180 countries, with more than 250,000 of those in the UK.

Photo by Doug.

Preparing for an online video interview

Businesses are increasingly turning to video conferencing for first round interviews, especially when promising candidates aren’t already living locally. Job interviews are difficult enough as it is, without adding in the technical challenges of a video call into the mix. So, here are a few tips to help you prepare. 

Make a good first impression

Making a good first impression is key to making the most of the fair, and we spoke to Dr Amanda Barnes, employability manager and cell biologist at the University of York, to get tips on preparing for the interview and also for how to navigate an online interview. (Watch the full interview with Amanda on our blog!)

“The first thing I’d say is that although this is not a formal interview, this is your first opportunity to show yourself to that company and a way in,” she said. So you should dress formally, just as you would for an in-person interview, and make sure that you use formal, professional speech in your interview.

Key in making a really good first impression is doing your research on the companies you want to talk to, she said. Make sure that you know what products or services they offer, and what type of roles they have open that are suitable for you, such as graduate schemes or entry-level positions if you’re just leaving university, or mid-level roles if you’re early in your careers. If you’re returning to the workforce, find out if they offer specific returnships and see if they have public information about flexible or fractional (part-time) working.

Interviews are a two-way street

It’s also important to remember the interviews are a two-way street: They aren’t just about an employer getting to know you, they are also an important opportunity to find out whether they are a company you want to work for. Dr Barnes suggests that you should ask what kind of potential career paths would be available to you if you join the company, and that could include asking about future training and career development opportunities.

Another plus of the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair is that it gives “you an opportunity to find out how your values fit with that of the company”, Dr Barnes said. “What do you want your typical day to be like in your world of work? … What is the culture like at the company and will I fit in there?”

Think about what’s in view of your camera

The default interview format for the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair is video, so make sure that there isn’t anything in the background that might distract the interviewer. Most laptops have a way to test the camera, so do that before the day and move anything that’s distracting. if you’re living in a student house, make sure that your flatmates know about the interview and don’t interrupt you.

If you are using a laptop, make sure it is fully charged or plugged in. That might sound like a simple thing to remember, but if you’re nervous, you might forget.

Keep your energy up

In addition to keeping your devices charged up, be sure to keep your energy levels high during the conversation, and be prepared to drive the interview. Have a list of questions, just out of the view during the interview that you can refer to, she said, adding you can plaster sticky notes behind your screen to remind yourself to make key points, especially about your skills or key questions that you have.

As for the structure of the interview, it’s a good idea to think ahead, and plan a question to kick off the discussion based on some of the research that you’ve done. Then you can move on to specific job opportunities, before finding out about the company’s culture and the work environment.

Make sure to end your conversation on a positive note. Recap the main points that you’ve made during the interview, and thank the interviewers for their time. And don’t forget to find out about next steps such as how to follow up with the recruiter or next steps in the application process.


Xero logoThis post was originally written for the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM, and was sponsored by Xero, a beautiful, easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors. It has over one million subscribers in more than 180 countries, with more than 250,000 of those in the UK.