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How to Hire For Cultural Fit

Recruitment Marketing featured

What do you value more, skills or ‘fit’?

The vast majority of hiring managers focus on skills, searching for candidates that ‘tick all the right boxes’, limiting the importance of cultural assimilation.

On paper, this looks great. No one can argue with a hire that matches the job description. The problem is that paper means little when your new hire doesn’t match your company culture and is either unhappy or ineffective – as many as 50% of new hires fail in the first 18 months because of bad fit.

The perfect hire is someone who is excited about your company’s goals, the kind of person that will go the extra mile when it’s required. Not the person who will complain when the have to work the occasional Saturday to get a project over the line.

Hiring these people is the way to build an awesome company culture, (something that can have surprisingly far-reaching effects on business success!)

This kind of person is hard to track down, but there are a number of things you can do to make sure most of your hires fit the bill.

What Makes Your Company Tick?

It sounds simple, but before you can hire effectively for cultural fit, you need to be clear on what your cultural values are!

Every company is different – approaches that work at a different organization may not be relevant for yours. It’s important that you get really granular and determine exactly what makes someone successful at your company.

Start at the top. Sit down with your CEO and other top C-Levels and ask them what makes a ‘perfect employee’.

This is the best way to start, but you need other input.

Analyze your top performers – do they match your new list of recommended traits? You then may have to make slight edits to your new ‘cultural requirements’.

It might even help to look at some of the worst performers – what attitudes do they share? Be careful to define these, the may well indicate bad hires in the future and should be a key part of your evaluation process.

Use these findings to draw up a company culture manifesto, now you know what to look for you can make your process far more targeted.

Connecting With Your Perfect Candidate

Now you understand who you’re really looking for, you should be able to put together an ideal candidate persona.

This is not too dissimilar from the customer persona that marketers at your company might use to help bring in new business.

Your ideal persona is the candidate who fits the cultural criteria that you and your team have defined.

The next step is to connect with them.

Try This 3-Step Process:

  1. Create awesome content that your target persona will relate to (e.g. blog posts, infographics, videos of your team)
  2. Work out the best forum to connect with your target persona. (e.g. do they hang out in LinkedIn groups, tech meetups, Twitter etc?)
  3. Start building a relationship. Share your awesome content and start talking to people who fit your requirements. Provide them with value, and you will begin to attract applications.

Interviewing For Success

Attracting applications from your ideal persona is only the first step though; you need to make sure your hiring process is effective at evaluating talent.

Crucial to this is the interview process. Brainstorm behavioral interview questions that will help you pinpoint the candidates that fit best, and think carefully about the kind of answers that you want.

Too often, we carefully plan interview questions without working out what constitutes a good answer! Try testing out your questions on top performers at your company to work out what a good response looks like.

Hiring for cultural fit isn’t just a Q&A though! If possible, see if you can get interviewees to spend a good amount of time with your team and take their feedback seriously.

At Beamery, we’ve found that it’s far easier to judge ‘fit’ over lunch or through an informal chat than it is in the formal strictures of an interview process.

Similarly, getting candidates to sit down and help on genuine problems that your team is facing is another great way to get them to drop their guard. You get to see what a candidate is ‘really like’ and you might even get some valuable business insight in the process.

If you do take this approach, be careful to explain to candidates that they're not just doing work for free, and that this is an important part of your evaluation process.

Weighing Up

You can’t let ‘fit’ govern your entire decision-making process – new hires obviously need the requisite skills to handle their responsibilities.

When you're reviewing a new candidate, your first step should always be to make sure they fit all competency requirements, then begin to apply your new cultural checklist.

Want to see what a true commitment to company culture looks like?

Shoe retailer Zappos puts its money where it’s mouth is (literally!). If you don’t deem yourself a cultural fit after the company’s intensive 4 week induction program, you can take a generous handout from the company to quit. Zappos is determined to retain its unique culture at all costs – one of the reasons it’s been so successful!

Hiring for cultural fit is the best way to build a highly engaged workforce, eager to work as ambassadors for your company.

If you’re not hiring for fit currently then maybe it’s time to revisit your recruitment process.

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