How To: Hiring for Culture Fit

Culture can be defined in many ways. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines  culture as “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time.”

Companies often talk about their culture in terms of values, norms and beliefs that make up the way people within the organization behave when carrying out their work. While it can be easy to define the experience and specific skills required to perform a particular job, it’s sometimes overlooked that finding the right fit in terms culture is equally important. Everyone participating in the hiring process from recruiters to hiring managers and anyone else involved in assessing candidates, should have a good understanding of the cultural attributes in which the company believes are most important.

Assuming everyone in the chain of the hiring process understands and is able to articulate these characteristics, the next step is to make sure there is a way to assess these when interviewing candidates. A good start is to ask candidates about the culture in past organizations and whether or not they felt they performed well and enjoyed working within those cultures. If experiences were positive, find out why and conversely if they did not do well or fit within a certain culture, explore why not. Questions about what people value in the workplace, work relationships, etc. are good ways to understand what makes a person tick and whether there’s a likelihood of them fitting within your culture.

A recent presentation by Margaret Graziano, CEO of KeenAlignment, spoke to a process of interviewing candidates in a way that gets beneath the surface of how well they may fit within an organization’s culture. She advocates for exploring five areas that get at how a person learns, acts, works with others, and responds to change, as well as what motivates them. These five themes are Intellectual, Character, Relationship, Emotional and Motivational.

Intellectual gets at how a person learns and stays on top of new developments in their field. Character describes how they handle areas involving ethics and decisions made by others they may or may not agree with. Relationship gets into how people work within teams and with others on a one to one basis. Emotional focuses on how people react to change, pressure and failures. Motivational delves into what drives people to do well and what positively reinforces them when they are at their best.

Including questions from each of these areas into the interview process and making sure everyone involved is focused on gathering information on these characteristics, will go a long way in assessing culture fit. Assessing and hiring for culture fit will help you find people that will ultimately have a much better chance of being engaged and successful, producing at a higher level and help avoid the costly turnover that comes with people not being a good fit.