The Mysterious Art of Values Matching

Look at any company’s career pages and the majority will allude, in some form or other, to their core values.  Some, such as Zappos – a byword for a company that lives and breathes its values – make them front and centre of their recruitment process

Please check out the Zappos Family’s 10 Core Values before applying! They are the heart and soul of our culture and central to how we do business.  If you are “fun and a little weird” – and think the other 9 Core Values fit you too – please take a look at our openings..” 

…while with others – Google and Apple for example, the reference is implicit rather than explicit.

Companies appear to have bought into the received wisdom that their core values underpin their competitive weapon – their corporate culture, and they are therefore looking to recruit individuals whose personal values support and reinforce these core values.

Presumably an individual should be equally rigorous in matching his / her values to those of a prospective employer when making a career move?

Not in my experience.

Admittedly in a “buyers’ market”, i.e. when unemployment is high and set to rise, job seekers might be more willing to compromise and focus on presenting themselves as a fit with any prospective employer’s culture / values.  However, I think that many people are only subconsciously aware of what motivates them and would struggle to articulate their values in an organisational context.

The other problem with ‘values matching’ for an individual is that so many corporations value statements sound bland and interchangeable.  This for example from a corporation whose stated ambition is to be “…one of the world’s most trusted and respected financial services institutions.”


  • We perform to the highest standards for our clients and our shareholders.
  • We employ people who work in partnership to ensure that our clients are able to fully realize the benefits of our broad global platform.
  • We are proud of the strong and open culture that exists within our firm. Our employees are able to deliver candid and constructive feedback to their colleagues.
  • We believe employees should reach their full potential, advance and be rewarded based on merit, capability and character.
  • We do our best to manage and operate our company with a consistent set of business principles. We believe that shareholders will benefit as we do the right thing for our clients and the communities we serve.
  • Finally, we treat all of our colleagues with respect. We strongly believe that different perspectives and experiences bring strength and creativity to our work and lead to the development of the best solutions for our clients.

Their ambition statement could, credibly, be any of at least 10 corporations (and, less credibly, many more).  And their values, while worthy are, ultimately, bland statements of the crushingly obvious.

But these are not the only problems. Well-positioned, open questions in an interview can elicit many clues about the potential fit between a candidate and the company, if the interviewer is sufficiently experienced and aware.  During my career, I have conducted many interviews, both with and without HR involvement in the interview process.  I have never once been trained on how to identify a potential recruit’s fit with the corporate values.  I can explore their technical competencies, their ambitions and their preferred methods of working but the rest is left to gut feel and instinct.

Having been working hard to find a job for the last four months myself, I’ve had plenty of time to consider the recruitment process and, as a result, I believe I will be more adept at the mysterious art of values matching when conducting interviews myself than I might have been previously.  You might wonder how much does this ‘matching’ really matter … assuming that the job market becomes a more hopeful environment than it is currently?

My personal experience tells me that it matters if you are looking for longer term job satisfaction as, finding a values match is more likely to enable you to fulfil one of the baseline measures for employee engagement – i.e. you will be more likely to find a best friend at work*.

Additionally, a company whose values resonate with you can transform a job spec into the first step on a new and exciting journey rather than simply an end in itself. It doesn’t happen that often but when it does, it’s powerful.


*Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement Survey ‘Best friend at work’ question has come in for more than its fair share of analysis and criticism. “Dorky” “bizarre” and “non actionable” are some of the terms used to describe it.  I think the attached posting by Forte Consulting most nearly reflects my views on its inclusion as a Top 12 question.


About madeleinekavanagh

Internal comms specialist with a career spanning advertising, car sales and management consulting. My greatest legacy (so far) - my son!
This entry was posted in Corporate Values, Culture, Employee Engagement, Feedback surveys, Job search strategies, People management / motivation, Personal Values. Bookmark the permalink.

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