4 Ways to Determine if Candidates Fit Your Culture

Have you ever hired that dream candidate who met every criteria of the position, was coveted by you and others in the organization and who negotiated a huge salary and title only to crash and burn within a few months? I have heard hundreds of stories just like this; candidates with excellent work history and experience, skills and credentials, yet they fail miserably because they don’t match the company culture.

Today, a growing number of recruiters, hiring managers, and CEOs from successful organizations feel a large part of their success in finding the right people is due to finding the people who fit comfortably within their culture.

Ten years ago we didn’t hear very much about fit, although it has always been a concern and a part of the decision on whether to hire someone or not. Recently it has become one of the more important concerns, often overriding skills or experience. Finding people who get along with those already in place and who are successful within a company is essential to success in growing the organization. Growing in this manner allows you to keep harmony, build community, and create trust – all important ingredients for success in innovative global and competitive environments.

Personal fit should be an integral part of your candidate assessment process. Fitting into a culture, organization, team or job is not always easy. Some people feel more connected and more included than others, and those who feel the most connected and involved tend to be the ones who perform well and stay. People who feel that they belong to something important, something that engages and excites them, make organizations more successful.

Candidates experience the corporate culture almost from their first contact with the organization. They see it in how they are treated during the hiring process, how diligent and caring the employees are, and what the work environment is like. As soon as they meet the hiring manager, they are assessing his or her style and values. When these are in alignment, good performance follows. Likewise, recruiters and hiring managers are subconsciously assessing candidates from the moment they meet them.

Know Your Culture
The first step in more objectively assessing culture fit is to articulate what makes up the culture of your organization.

Most firms do a poor job of figuring out what makes up their culture and whether candidates would be comfortable in it or with a particular manager. Many factors make up the corporate culture. Some of those are as basic as work schedules and travel demands, but most significant are the ethics and values the organization believes in, the style of everyday management, and how communication takes place.

Take the time to understand what the true ingredients are of your true culture, not the ones you wish for, and then you will be able to assess candidates with far greater success.

Four Ways to Assess Fit
Here are four ways to determine whether or not a candidate fits your culture.

1. Realistic Job Descriptions
Some firms rely on realistic job descriptions, where candidates get a glimpse of what it would be like to actually do the work. These true previews allow candidates to determine potential fit and opt “out” of applying. If they do apply, testing and proper interview techniques will allow organizations to determine the potential quality of fit of a candidate. The truer the job description the more likely you are to attract the right candidate.

2. Use referrals and Internal Connections
Referrals can be a gold standard for cultural fit because current employees, or even those who may not be employees but know your organization well, typically choose to refer people who will fit the culture. You can simply ask employees to focus on people who would be a good fit, rather on people with high skills levels or experience. The downside of referrals is that you can overuse your network and run out of good candidates, and it is always hard to get referrals consistently. It often requires a “reward” to get people motivated and once the push or reward goes away, referrals falls back to low levels.

3. Use Social Networks
Social networks are a potentially highly effective way to determine cultural fit or at least to see whether or not a potential candidate communicates and interacts in a way that fits. By developing a Facebook or LinkedIn page and then engaging candidates in conversations, recruiters can learn a great deal about communication skills, language ability, and motivation. The downside is that these require time and effort; often, more than an average recruiter has available. However, it is probably true that candidates who have joined your network and participate in conversations at all are a better fit than those who do not.

4. Testing
There are many tests of cultural and personal fit that can streamline assessment and that add a quantitative dimension to the selection process. These tests have been around for decades and have a solid track record when used properly. Of course, the downside of testing is the candidate’s acceptance and the time needed on both the candidate side as well as on the hiring authority to interpret the results.

Whatever method or combination of methods you decide on, making sure candidates will be comfortable in their work environment and with their hiring manager should be a key consideration.

By getting candidates who are aligned to your culture, you will experience faster time to productivity, deeper involvement in problem solving, greater innovation, and less turnover.

Good Luck!
David Lammert

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