The Art of Hiring for ‘Cultural Fit’

Define Your Culture

How can I increase the likelihood of hiring someone who will be a good fit for my organization?

Many of us are using behavioral interviewing questions, and some of us have taken it a step further and identified the competencies needed in our positions.  We developed behavioral questions, which we believe will elicit these competencies.  We dutifully probe candidates who supply us with incomplete answers, and despite our best efforts, we still sometimes hire someone who turns out not to ‘fit’.

What’s one to do?  Consider whether you’re hiring folks who ‘culturally fit’ with your organization.

In Miranda Nicolson’s article, “3 Steps To Improving Your Cultural Fit Hiring”, she first  recommends that you “Define Your Culture Code”.  What’s unique about your organization?  What are your values and beliefs?  How do you ‘show’ those attributes in your organization to the outside world?  What qualities do you need to thrive in your organization?  A series of discussions with your employees should help produce and confirm this information.

Next, Nicholson challenges us to ‘Pre-screen with Culture Code in Mind’.  Don’t wait for the actual face to face interview.  Begin to look for the cultural fit with your initial  pre-screening telephone interview.  Nicholson suggests asking, “What motivates you to perform your best work?”  “What is your perfect work environment”.  Ask questions to get candidates to open up and offer their perspective to you.  The sooner you can begin to assess ‘cultural fit’, the better.

Finally, she advocates for ‘Developing a Cultural Interview Process’.  Develop interview questions around the key values and behaviors that are needed in order to be successful in your organization.  This creates a unique value proposition that you are looking to hire someone who will be attracted to your organization and its culture.  For example, if working on teams is an integral part of your culture, ask the candidate to tell you about a time he was part of a team working on a project.  What was his role, what specifically did he contribute, and what role(s) has he had on team(s) in the past, and what role(s) does he prefer and why.

In Josh Tolans’ article, “6 Problems With Job Interviews Today (And How To Fix Them)”, he notes that an interesting thing about these ‘cultural fit’ questions is that it can inject a little bit of fun into the interviewing process.  C’mon, when was the last time you had a bit of fun while interviewing?  You want the candidate’s personality to shine through, not just their professional demeanor.  Ask something like,  “How would you go about purchasing a birthday present for a friend?”  Or “Choose one word that best describes you.”

Maximize Your Chances

Tolans cites that another approach which can help maximize the likelihood of making a good ‘cultural fit’ hire is to include multiple folks in the interviewing process, so you’re able to obtain multiple perspectives of the candidate.  Consider starting with a peer interview and/or several people on the team, so the candidate has the opportunity to meet and learn more broadly about the position and the organization.  This helps reduce any bias or prejudice when assessing the candidate.  It also provides the candidate with the opportunity to see whether he can see himself as a ‘fit’ for this position and this organization.  Remember, this is a two-way proposition.

Let’s remember that while targeting interview questions which assess ‘cultural fit’ will help, at the end of the day, interviewing, no matter how well planned is still more of an ‘art’ than a ‘science’.

Good luck.

the HRmeister