How to hire for cultural fit
We’ve written previously about what is corporate culture and why you should care, but we’ve not yet talked about how to hire for cultural fit. In other words, not just hiring someone who looks great on paper but also someone who fits within your team and within your company culture.
Because corporate culture is often hard to measure, it can be difficult to gauge the cultural fit of a candidate. Psychometric tests somewhat measure these characteristics, but they can’t be relied on to produce fool-proof results.
You may also choose to go by instinct or gut feeling and, though this may sometimes be right, you not always end up with the best outcome. Hiring the right person can be very costly indeed (see how to calculate cost of turnover), and if the candidate doesn’t fit your company culture it can sometimes be a disaster – both from a cost perspective and the impact on your organization! Though their skill set may have a positive effect, poor aligned culture completely cancels that out (see “Unpacking Prior Experience: How Career History Affects Job Performance,” in Organization Science, 2009). That’s why it’s absolutely worth investing the time into finding the right person for the right job at the right time – not just occasionally, but every time you hire.
Ultimately, you’re trying to find out whether the candidate’s values align with those of the company before making the hiring decision.
Here are three ways that will help you hire for cultural fit.
Identify your culture and the behaviours needed to support it
To recruit the best people you need to know what your company needs. What is its mission? What are its values? What are its beliefs and what type of individuals fit in? What mind-set are you looking for? Get really clear about the behaviours needed to support your culture.
For example, it’s not enough to say that customer service is a focus. One organization may do whatever it takes to ensure customers come first – even bending the rules or sacrificing profit margins – meaning that they would need people willing to go to great lengths to achieve this. Other organizations might be more conservative with customer service and may look for individuals who are able to balance the needs of customers and the business.
While interviewing potential candidates, make sure you are doing so with this clarity of culture in mind.
Review your job posting
Many job postings are filled with clichés rather than focusing on specific tasks and qualifications needed. By drafting as clear a job posting as possible, you will help candidates self-select themselves in or out as a potential employee, so that hopefully you have only the most qualified apply.
Hone your interview skills
Candidates who’ve been doing their research will generally know how to answer standard interview questions. Therefore, to get to their core, it’s up to you, the interviewer, to create an interview that will explore more than their skills.
- Probe any grey areas so you can get the facts. For example, prepare questions but also identify key points raised by the candidate that relate to your principles, then hone in for further clarity. This will ensure you are confident about cultural alignment
- Exploring their past experiences will give a good indication of their principles
- Avoid linear questions and focus on having discussions that drill down to the specifics about their experiences. For example, what role did they take in past projects? Were they a leader? Did they follow their own initiative? How did they react to challenges? Did they go the extra mile?
- Beyond the interview questions, provide the candidate with a challenging take-home assessment and have them come back to present their proposal. This will help you gauge their performance as well as other skills such as presentation, communication, openness to feedback and interaction with the team
- Have multiple layers of interviews, including one, if it makes sense to do so, with the founder of the company. Those who created the company often exude its culture and may have a great intuition about the candidate
- Have a post-huddle review after each interview to determine whether the candidate is a yes, no or a maybe (they may require further interviews or testing)
Finally, as important as it is to invest time in your interviewing skills, remember too that it’s also important to be yourself and to offer a genuine setting so that the candidate sees a realistic picture.
While technical skills can generally be taught, cultural and motivational fit can be difficult – or impossible – to coach or develop. Hiring the right people for your team can make or break your organization, therefore, never compromise on culture. Look for people who, in addition to having the right skills, have the right personal qualities to mesh with your already successful team.