Company Values: What They Are and Why They Matter

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We've already read on this blog how important it is to factor company culture into your job search, but it's also worth looking into what underpins that culture - a company's values.

While 'company values' are often taken to mean a company's culture, they're not quite the same thing - company values are a bit like laws, while company cultures are the societies that result from those laws. In companies that get it right, culture flows from values; in companies that don't, the two are at odds.

Why is this important for job-seekers? Well, for one thing, you can get a good idea of a company's culture (or at least, what a company's culture is supposed to be) from its values.

Company culture is a pretty nebulous concept. Far easier to pin down are company values, which will often be published on the company's website as a sort of manifesto (sometimes with an accompanying discussion).

Researching a company's values will also provide you with a deeper understanding of what that company is looking for in its employees. Companies want employees to embody their values; knowing what those values are will help you construct a CV and covering letter in which they shine.

All being well, you'll head into the interview able to demonstrate that you know exactly what the company's about - and that it's what you're about too.

To give you an idea of what company values tend to look like, here are the value-sets of three of the biggest British companies by revenue (according to the latest Fortune 500 list).

GlaxoSmithKline (#273 on Fortune 500 list)

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a science-led multinational healthcare company that researches and develops prescription medicines and vaccines.

It also has an impressive consumer health portfolio including a number of household names -Panadol, Aquafresh, Sensodyne and Horlicks are all brought to you by GSK.

According to GSK's website, the company's core values are:

• Patient focus (eg ensuring that products are safe and of good quality)

• Integrity (eg "look for principles, not loopholes")

• Respect for people (eg creating an atmosphere in which people feel able to raise concerns)

• Transparency (eg not sitting on important information)

Barclays (#284 on Fortune 500 list)

Tracing its history back to two goldsmith bankers who set up shop in seventeenth-century London, Barclays is now a multinational banking and financial services company.

It's currently ranked as the 17th biggest bank in the world (in terms of assets) by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Barclays defines its core values as:

• Respect (eg prioritising shared interests over those of an individual or team)

• Integrity (eg "act in private as I do in public")

• Service (eg looking to exceed clients' and customers' expectations)

• Excellence (eg taking pride in one's work and that of one's team)

• Stewardship (eg encouraging innovation)

Tesco (#92 on Fortune 500 list)

Tesco is a multinational retailer employing 460,000 people in 6,809 shops around the world.

Starting off as a grocer, the company has expanded into clothing, electronics, furniture and other merchandise, and now also offers financial and telecommunication services.

Tesco's core values (given on its website) are as follows:

• No one tries harder for our customers (eg "act responsibly for our communities")

• We treat people how they want to be treated (eg sharing knowledge and experience)

• Every little help makes a big difference (eg facilitating a healthy lifestyle).

Every good business strives to be more than the sum of its parts. Similarly, companies are looking to hire human beings - not walking, talking CVs.

Choose a company whose values speak to you and align with your own, and make those values stand out in your CV and covering letter. You might just end up with a job that's a perfect fit.

Rosemary Proctor writes for Inspiring Interns, which helps career starters find the perfect job, in everything from sales jobs to marketing internships. To browse their graduate jobs London listings, visit their website.

Image Credit: Mike Wilson