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Hiring for a Cultural Fit

It’s tempting. You have an open position and need someone who can hit the ground running—fast. Your first inclination is to hire the first person who has the skills and experience that are high on your “must-have list.”

It’s understandable, but problematic. One of the biggest mistakes any business can make is to base a hiring decision on skills only. There’s no question that skills, abilities and education are all very important, but they are all things that can be acquired, modified or enhanced. And believe it or not, they are not the primary drivers of a company’s success. Company culture is the intrinsic, make-it or break-it factor that experts say gives a company its real competitive edge.

The simplest definition of company culture is the values and practices shared by members of a group—in this case, your company. But that really doesn’t convey the full magnitude of its importance. Company culture is your organization’s DNA. When it maintains a healthy, harmonious state, all is well. Pollute it with toxins and it’s likely to become weak and problematic.

Ensuring a new hire meshes seamlessly with your corporate cultural is so important that many of the most successful companies say they hire for attitude, not aptitude.

So how do you determine if a promising candidate is the right candidate? If they’ll be a positive contributor or a destructive nay-sayer? First, you need to understand your culture. A good place to begin is by defining your company’s top values.

  • Is the atmosphere formal or informal; fast-paced, very structured or flexible?
  • Are there certain traits that successful employees share?
  • What are the reasons that some employees have not worked out in the past?
  • Are there any special challenges or unique demands in working for your company?

Once you have a good understanding of your company’s culture, tailor the interview process to gain insights that will reveal whether a candidate is a good cultural fit.

  • Select interview questions that closely mirror situations the candidate will encounter while working for you.
  • Analyze responses to see how they mesh with your culture. A candidate’s answers can be very revealing. For example, there’s likely to be a disconnect if you ask a candidate to describe their ideal boss and they say they want to work for someone who tells them exactly what to do, but your organization expects employees to solve problems on their own.
  • Consider using “behavioral interviewing” techniques. Since past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior, you can often find “best-fit” candidates by identifying behavior patterns during the interview process. Behavioral questions are open-ended questions that require candidates to tell their story. They can be used to gauge attitudes toward teamwork, leadership, conflict resolution, problem solving, innovation, success and failure. Common behavioral questions include:
  • Tell me about a team project that you worked on.

    Tell me about a time you took the lead on a difficult project.

    What was the best idea you came up with in your last job?

    Are you someone who can learn from failure?

    How do you view success, failure and risk in general?

    Need help discerning who might be the right for your company? Snelling specializes in identifying accomplished candidates who can help strengthen, fill a gap or realign your company culture—depending on your needs. Our trained professionals know how to identify all the intangible qualities that are the hallmarks of a cultural fit—along with the education, experience and hard skills you also require. In the end, you get a great-fit candidate who can enhance your culture, strategic goals, operational efficiency—and ultimately, profitability. Connect with one or our staffing experts to today to see how we can serve you.

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