How Do you Know Someone Is the Right Cultural Fit?

Recruitment has changed a lot in recent years. It used to be that if a candidate’s CV checked out, and they passed the interview ‘test’, then they’d be considered perfect for the job.

Today, it’s a bit more complicated. In addition to having the right experience and qualifications, employers are also looking for people whose attitudes, ideas, and values are aligned with those of the company. This is known as hiring for cultural fit.


Why is this important?

The old-fashioned view of recruitment is that employees are brought in to solve work-related problems. Do you need a website designing? Recruit a web designer. Your HR staff are snowed under? Bring in another HR specialist to boost the ranks.

This approach sees employees merely in terms of the skills they bring, and the problems they can solve. But it isn’t that simple. There is, of course, more to an employee than the tasks they perform.

There is also the matter of what the employee is like – their attitudes towards work and other people, the values they uphold, and the personality traits they exhibit.

You can recruit the most talented person available, but if their attitude and values are at odds with those of the company, not to mention those of their teammates, they will do more harm than good. All it takes is one bad egg to undermine everything that your company stands for.

For this reason, cultural fit is one of the most important criteria when it comes to recruitment.


What about diversity?

One of the criticisms leveled at this approach is that it favors certain types of people over others, thus stifling diversity and inclusion. But this isn’t necessarily the case.

Cultural fit isn’t about hiring people you’d like to go for a beer with – people who are just like you and your mates. It’s about ensuring that the type of person that you bring into the company shares its vision, and exhibits the core values that define your company’s culture.

For example, your company’s values may include fairness, honesty, and enthusiasm. By hiring people that exhibit these qualities, you can build a workforce of different backgrounds, cultures, ages, ethnicities, and personalities, all united by shared beliefs and ideals.


So how do you go about hiring for cultural fit?

Recruitment is not only one of the most important things to get right, but it’s also one of the hardest. You may know the kind of person that you want working for your company, but how do you go about finding them?

The process of applying for a job is fraught with dishonesty. That’s not to say that candidates are all liars, but that the nature of the recruitment process teaches them to act or think in a certain way. The average interview is more like an interrogation than a grown-up conversation, with questions designed to trick candidates into making a mistake.

As a result, candidates often approach the interview thinking ‘who do they want me to be?’ and ‘what do they want me to say?’

It can be very difficult to gauge someone’s personality from a 30-minute meeting where nobody is acting authentically, particularly if you ask the same predictable questions such as ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’ or ‘what are your weaknesses?’ Understanding their attitudes, ideals, and values are even harder.

You may find that someone who was the epitome of enthusiasm and professionalism in the interview turns out to be the very opposite once they get the job. So how do you approach recruiting the best cultural fit?

Perhaps the best way is to define your own culture first – that is the attitudes, ideals, and values that define your organization. Once you are clear about these things, it’s time to ensure that everyone else is too – employees and applicants alike.

The type of company you are should be clear from your website, marketing channels, and recruitment process – and, of course, from your workplace. You should be talking about your company culture in job ads and at interview, and stressing the importance of having everyone pull in the same direction. By doing this, you should naturally attract candidates that align with your company culture.

While it isn’t always possible to get to know what a candidate is really like during an interview, you can get a better idea by discussing culture-related issues, rather than just their experience and skills. Instead of providing a verbal assault course for them to get around, try to get to know them on a personal level.


Cultural fit is important for employees, too

It’s important to remember that employers aren’t the only ones interested in cultural fit – employees are too. Most candidates now actively seek out organizations that reflect the way they feel about workplace culture and social issues.

That means checking out the ‘about us’ page on your website, and perhaps more importantly, your Glassdoor reviews, focussing particularly on areas such as diversity, inclusion, flexibility, and personal development. If they don’t like what they see, chances are they’ll steer clear.

With both sides looking for the right cultural fit, it makes sense to be open and upfront about such matters at the interview phase, and for both parties to be honest about their suitability for the other. This is the basis for a mutually beneficial and enjoyable collaboration.


Nick Edwards - http://www.praguecopywriter.com

Nicholas Edwards is a freelance writer and editor based in Prague, the Czech Republic. When he's not helping local businesses master the English language, he loves writing about the future of work for People First. 

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