Culture in the workplace

What is a Culture Fit?

Cultural fit is a candidate’s capability of fitting into an organization based upon its values and code of ethics. Cultural fit has become more popular recently as companies have started looking for candidates who not only perfectly match the job description, but who also fit the company culture as a whole.

Having a strong culture at your company fosters a positive work environment, gives employees a sense of pride in where they work and makes your organization more attractive to new talent.

In this article we’ll cover why cultural fit is important, discuss how to foster a strong company culture and detail best practices for doing so while avoiding discrimination in the workplace.

Why is Cultural Fit Important?

Company culture plays a critical role in any successful organization. Having your own unique culture that harbors a fun, passionate, and ethical work environment is what everybody looks for when trying to find their next company.

In the same way that all candidates have their own unique sets of skills, all companies have their own unique cultures. The trick is finding that perfect match between candidate and company that will support and build upon the company culture. According to a 2017 study, 47% of people actively seeking new opportunities are doing so because the company culture was not a good fit. This isn’t to say that the company had a bad culture per se, just that there was a disconnect somewhere along the line that resulted in the wrong employee / culture match. By focusing your hiring more on picking the right candidate for your company’s unique culture, you raise the chance of having a successful new hire.

Another important thing to keep in mind when hiring for cultural fit is that skills can be taught, but culture is not as easy to ingrain in new employees. This isn’t to say that you should ignore a candidate’s lack of experience when hiring for an open position, but it is best to hire somebody you would want to spend time with and collaborate with on a daily basis. If they don’t check those boxes, no amount of experience is going to make up for the loss of productivity and morale hiring a bad employee can cause your business. Even if a few skills are missing, skills can be taught, and a promising new hire should be able to learn quickly through a formal onboarding and new hire training program.

How to Do It

Now that you know how important it is to hire with cultural fit in mind, how do you actually go about implementing this?

The run-of-the-mill interview questions you have been asking up until now are not going to cut it anymore. By asking the right behavioral questions, you can get a good feel for how the candidate will fit into your company culture and not just how well they can prepare for an interview. Some good questions to start with are:

  • How would you describe the culture of your ideal company? How well do you believe you would fit into our company culture?
  • How would your co-workers describe you at the office?
  • Do you prefer to work alone or as a team?
  • What was the best part about working at your current/previous company?
  • What management style do you work best under?
  • Describe the culture in which you were the happiest.

For many organizations, this is the extent to which they evaluate cultural fit. However, using pre-hire assessments can provide you scientific data around what a candidate is actually like in a real-world situation. At Newton, we use both a cognitive and a personality test to ensure that a candidate’s personality aligns with what we are looking for in each role. Of course, as with all answers a candidate gives you during the interview process, be sure to take the assessments with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, trust your gut when it comes to choosing the right candidate for the job and use everything else to back that up.

To sum up the information above, try following these steps to ensure you hire the best candidate possible for the job and your culture:

  1. Have an organized hiring process laid out – This will ensure you can focus your efforts on choosing the best candidate and not spend all of your time managing back-end processes.
  2. Ask the right interview questions – As we talked about above, asking the the wrong questions in an interview can be a huge roadblock in actually learning what a candidate is truly like. Ask questions that relate to the job and the candidate’s prior experience but be sure to dig a little deeper. When you ask better questions, you can make a more informed hiring decision.
  3. Use pre-hire assessments – Using both a logical and a personality test can give you much greater insight into how a candidate will actually perform on the job.
  4. Trust your gut – We all know that feeling when somebody just doesn’t come off quite right. Listen to what your gut is telling you along with all of the other information at hand and you will be able to make the best decision possible.

Avoiding Discrimination

When it comes to hiring for cultural fit, there is a fine line between hiring for a strong culture and discrimination. People tend to naturally gravitate to people who are similar to them and this can open the door for discriminatory practices.

A good way to get around this is to clearly communicate your culture to everyone in the company. When your culture is well defined, it is much easier to reflect back on what kind of people you need in your business. Studies have shown that having a diverse background of people on your team increases both innovation and productivity by an alarming 35%.

Another way to reduce the chance for discrimination in your hiring efforts is to have preset interview questions for each interviewer related to culture. Then use interview scorecards to collect quantitative feedback from your hiring managers on how they feel the candidate performed. By standardizing at least one portion of your interview, you can see trends between interviewers. If 3 out of the 4 interviewers thought the candidate was a great fit culturally, it would be worth digging deeper into why the other interviewer disagreed. Maybe they saw something that other people missed, or it could be a case of being biased.

One final way to avoid discrimination is to ask hiring managers for concrete explanations as to why a candidate was not a good cultural fit. If the only reason they can give is that they “just weren’t a fit” it may be time to re-train them on interviewing best practices and/or find somebody different to conduct interviews going forward.


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