Describe Your Company Culture in Five Words: Can You?

If asked to describe your company culture in five words, you’d probably come up with three extempore before pausing to reach into your mind to find the most accurate and appealing last two adjectives. The most common ways companies describe themselves (and their employees) are: talented, driven, dedicated, innovative, and ambitious. Two of those words are essentially the same thing: ambitious and driven; and all of the words are cliche buzzwords. Of course a potential employee wants to work for a company that is made up of talented, dedicated, ambitious individuals, but what else? Those are expected. What makes your company culture distinct? That is the question at least two of the five words should answer.

Zappos prides itself on being weird, it encourages weirdness. That’s why candidates are drawn to the company. Quirky, a New York based invention company, has a name that describes it’s values and philosophy. The Quirky brand is distinct and appeals to many types of people, as well as candidates who think of themselves as being quirky or weird.

Top candidates already think of themselves as being driven and talented so they want to know what other qualities and characteristics potential employers encourage. The diction, or word choices, a company uses to describe its brand will expose the different perspectives it looks for in candidates. If you value diversity and open-mindedness, use words that explicitly or implicitly suggest those qualities.

On IBM’s website it states they value “trust and responsibility in all relationships.” Trust and responsibility are key words to mention if your company has strong customer service,  is made up of self-starters, and/or has a flat management structure. This is the model for many startups. Buzzwords like innovative, talented, and fun don’t actually describe the company culture to potential candidates. Words like trustworthy, weird, bold, curiosity (Couchsurfing), community (Airbnb), and catalyst (Deloitte) do. If the words sincerely describe company culture, attitudes, and are found in the philosophy/values section of your website they don’t have to be adjectives.

When communicating your company culture and the information you put on job descriptions, think of the five words that truly describe your environment, values, and philosophy. Think of words that are descriptive in their essence and express the perspectives you are looking for in potential new hires.

Hiring the right team is as much about branding and your company’s story as it is about having the right tools and resources to efficiently and effectively hire. Can you describe your company culture in 5 words that will attract the right candidates who are excited to work and grow with your company?

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Comment by Derdiver on September 29, 2014 at 5:48pm
Great post Teju! Thank you. People often speak of culture etc. Yet I don't think they know what there's ever is...or...won't speak of it.
Comment by Teju Adisa-Farrar on September 29, 2014 at 6:05pm

Hi @Derdiver, I agree. We throw around phrases like "company culture" and sometimes we don't take the time to establish what it is and how we would describe it to potential candidates (besides with the popular buzzwords I mentioned). 

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on September 29, 2014 at 7:38pm

How about: "Where is your next vacation?"


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