Some assumptions don’t make an a** out of u and me.

When applying for a job, you can assume that you will need to emphasize your results and impact in your current and former positions.  Even if an organization doesn’t systematically focus on results, it’s safe to say the people in charge want good results.  So they’ll be impressed that you show your results. Results in a previous job are the best indicator of future performance.  Intuitively or systematically, people look to hire people who produce impact.

Another good assumption is that employers look for people who have both the required skills AND the culture fit. You need to demonstrate both, and you can find clues to both in the job description and on the organization’s website.

The job description will tell you flat out what is required and desired in terms of skills and attitude, and will have clues about more subtle cultural norms.  The website is a second source of information about culture, specifically core values and behavior.

  • Carefully read and take notes on all parts of the “About” section.  Focus on the mission statement and any statements of vision and values.
  • Read about the background of top leadership. Are they “lifers” who worked their way up in the company? That tells you the company values loyalty, commitment to the company’s purpose, and developing employees.  If people come from outside the company or from different fields, it says the company is open to innovation, perhaps more results-oriented, and has a “do whatever it takes to reach goals” culture.
  • Look at the “Careers” or “Jobs” section to see what other jobs are open. You can build a picture of the organization by looking at job titles and reading some of the other position descriptions. What common elements are in each job description? Those are the core values or concerns of the company.

Once you know more about the company, you can use this information in two ways:

  1. Evaluate whether you are a good fit for the company in terms of culture. Culture fit tends to be the critical element in job success. More people leave jobs because of culture than anything else.
  2. If you are good fit, build a cover letter that addresses those concepts and key words. You also can infuse appropriate ones into your resume.


When I led City Harvest, we looked for specific values and behaviors in job applicants.  We sought a passion for the mission, first and foremost. You had to grasp the importance of feeding hungry New Yorkers and appreciate the simple genius of our method: taking good food that otherwise would go to waste and distributing it to community food programs that fed hungry men, women and children throughout NYC.

If your cover letter showed enthusiasm for our mission, we then looked for values and behaviors such as going beyond what’s required, striving for excellence, working in a team and collaborating, respecting each other, “owning” your job, seeing how your position supports and makes possible the organization’s mission, and having integrity. People who showed this in their cover letters and resumes were put in the “A” pile and probably interviewed.