How to Consider Cultural Fit in Your Hiring Process

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Think of the perfect candidate -- one whose skills and experience match perfectly with a job description. It's hard to imagine this candidate struggling in the workplace, yet it happens all the time. Why?

Too often, companies become blinded by a resume and fail to consider cultural fit.

Whether it’s an enthusiastic extrovert who’s hit hard by feelings of isolation when working remotely, or a deep-thinking introvert who’s quickly overwhelmed by a lively open-office plan, these employees may love the work but clash with the culture.

What happens when someone’s preferences and personality traits conflict with those of their organization?

They might struggle to create bonds and reach important milestones. They could become disengaged. Some may even publish negative company reviews on sites like Glassdoor or write a book about the experience. A poor cultural fit can cost a company 50–60% of the employee’s annual salary in turnover expenses alone.

On the other hand, when you hire a candidate who is a great cultural fit, the likelihood of high levels of retention, engagement, performance, and profitability increases exponentially.

Cultural fit is a essential component of the hiring process. It’s also one of the most difficult to master. If you’re looking to improve your hiring success rates, consider implementing the following guidelines. You’ll be well on your way to an actively engaged workforce.

Define Your Culture Code

You can’t hire for cultural fit if you can’t articulate your organization’s culture. Establishing an official culture code allows you to weave your core values into the hiring process so you can recognize when a candidate’s beliefs and behaviors align with those of your organization.

What’s unique about your company? What are your values, goals, and practices? What traits are needed to thrive? Identifying and defining these attributes and others like them will allow you to pinpoint job candidates who embrace or are willing to adapt to your environment.

The process of formally defining company culture can be as simple as a series of staff discussions and surveys or as in-depth as hiring an outside consultant. Whatever method you choose, the outcome should be the same: a firm list of cultural attributes that recruiters, supervisors and hiring managers can put to use.

Pre-Screen with Culture Code in Mind

Next, you must incorporate your culture code into the hiring process—and not just during job interviews. Vetting candidates for cultural fit should begin the moment you start reviewing resumes and applications.

You can get started by weaving culture-focused questions into your job postings and application process. Include pre-screening questions such as “What is your perfect work environment?” and “What motivates you to perform your best work?” to help candidates convey what they need to thrive. Evaluating these characteristics during the early stages of hiring allows you to be proactive about determining an applicant’s cultural fit.

Develop a Cultural Interview Process

As you move through the interview process and each job posting pool is narrowed down to a few strong candidates, make sure your interview process is infused with interactions that help ensure each new hire will adapt well to your culture.

Be sure to identify the key values and behaviors needed to be successful within your company, and develop the interview process around those needs. This creates a unique value proposition that ensures you’re hiring people who are attracted to your company and its culture.

A good cultural interview process is one that provides plenty of opportunities for both the candidate and the company’s current employees to get to know one another. Start with a peer interview where a candidate meets several people on the team. Next, a conversation with employees outside the department can give the candidate a chance to learn more broadly about the company and the working environment. After those first two culture-focused sessions, the hiring manager and HR director should meet with the strongest candidates. At that point, each applicant and the company decision-makers should know whether a cultural fit has been found.

On paper, countless candidates can likely handle a particular job, but only a handful will do so in a way that reflects your company’s vision and values. When employees not only love the work they do but also embrace the way their company operates, great things can happen.

Chris Byers is the CEO of Formstack, an Indianapolis-based company offering an online form and data-collection platform. 

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