Hiring for Cultural Fit

September 2019
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In any industry, a new hire makes a substantial impression on both your organization and your individual teams. While professional experience and skills are always critical factors during the interview process, cultural fit is also a top trait that hiring managers, recruiters and organizations look for when considering applicants for their open opportunities.

Hiring for cultural fit does not mean seeking to hire people who are the same as your existing employees, but instead relates to targeting diverse individuals who best align with a company’s values, goals and practices, and will subsequently flourish in your environment. Everyone who is part of an interview team and selection committee should be well versed in these core tenets.

An organization’s values could be any number of things, from collaboration, entrepreneurialism and loyalty to upholding ethical standards, giving back to the community and celebrating creativity. Better cultural fit results in greater job satisfaction and superior job performance across the board. Each new hire is an investment, and making smarter hiring decisions will save a lot of time and money in the long run. Always be mindful of your firm’s mission, vision and purpose.

When interviewing for cultural fit, keep your organization top of mind. Is your firm hierarchical? Is it flat in structure? Do teams tend to collaborate? Do people work individually or in a more siloed way? Are people expected to be onsite, or is virtual work encouraged, too?

Think about different ways to determine if a candidate possesses any of the valued and intangible traits of your most engaged and successful staffers. Some specific questions or conversation prompts that can help an interview panel to assess cultural fit during the process might include the following:

  • Could you describe your ideal workplace or professional environment? What type of workplace culture do you thrive in? Why?
  • Tell us about a time you worked in a place that did not align with your values. Why was it not a fit for you? What changes would have prompted you to stay?
  • Based on your conversations with us so far, and what you have seen, how would you describe our workplace or team culture? 
  • How would you work to improve and enhance culture on your team and across the organization?
  • How do you prefer to receive feedback from your manager (regular meetings, formal reviews, etc.)?

There are also red flags to watch out for and pay attention to that can be indicative of a poor cultural fit. Things like dishonesty, misaligned values and differing leadership styles could be a long-term issue for your team and the company as a whole. Sometimes, inviting a candidate to a lunch or meeting with several cross-functional members of your team will provide a unique opportunity to observe their behaviors and interactions in advance of the hire.

While taking all of this into consideration, remember to never define your organization’s culture or someone’s cultural fit in a way that discriminates against certain groups of people, and also be wary of affinity bias. Statements like, “They’re just not a fit,” are indicative of a subjective assessment that may be based on more than a person’s ability to be effective and successful within your organization. 

Hiring for cultural fit should be always combined with hiring for skills, experience and education. Additionally, an organization should provide ongoing education and professional development opportunities for both new hires and existing staff at all levels. These practices have been shown to improve retention, and also ensure that staff will thrive within your company.

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