How to hire for culture fit

How to Hire Employees for Cultural Fit

There is a school of thought when recruiting that you should ‘Hire for culture fit, train for skills’. So what does this mean? We cover practical strategies on how to hire employees for cultural fit and why it’s so successful.

Let’s start by understanding what culture fit is all about. Simply put, culture fit is the likelihood that a person will be able to conform and adapt to the core values and collective behaviours that make up an organisation. When you hire employees for cultural fit, you’re ensuring a better chance of success.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you are hiring for an exact personality replica as yourself either; diversity in people and opinions are important.

However if you have two candidates, one who needs further skills training and the other who enjoys a great skill set, but doesn’t seem like a ‘good fit amongst the team’, then I would always hire the former.

Let me explain.

If you assess cultural fit throughout your recruitment process, you will ensure you hire people who will become fantastic in their new roles, which will certainly help drive long-term growth and success for your organisation.

When you hire employees for cultural fit, the fit within your existing team and understanding of your company values will ensure that they will save you time and money in having to replace them later.

What this means is that when you hire on both job fit and cultural fit, you’ll find that your new recruits are

  • Faster to start really becoming part of your team
  • Start contributing quicker than others
  • Are happier in their new role
  • Tend to stay longer with your business
  • Become brand ambassadors, and;
  • Are likely to become ‘star performers’.

When you make recruiting decisions purely on skills, and don’t take into account the cultural fit of the candidate, you may find;

  • The candidate doesn’t fit in with your existing team
  • They will quickly become dissatisfied with their role
  • Will not adhere to the values and behaviours expected of them
  • May end up leaving through resignation or termination, faster.

So you can see the benefits of ensuring a great cultural fit through the recruitment process.

The trick is, how to hire employees for cultural fit, without just relying on ‘gut instinct’?

Who you hire ultimately defines your culture.
– Ryan Hoover, Product Hunt

7 Proven Steps to Hire for Cultural Fit

You should start by following these steps;

  1. Ensure you have a set of values and how they translate to the role
  2. Include a page within your website about your company values
  3. Reference these company values in any advertising for the role
  4. Discuss the values and how your culture is during the initial interview
  5. Ask questions that relate directly to these values
  6. Ensure you have a solid induction process that involves cultural induction
  7. Schedule a meeting within their first month in the role to discuss further

Lets get into some more detail what each of these strategies actually mean.

Ensure you have a set of values and how they translate to the role

If you are in your very early stages, it is likely that you haven’t put thought into creating and documenting your company values.

I believe company values are incredibly important to distill and communicate as early as possible in your businesses lifetime. They explain what the founders and management hold as important, and they help explain the behaviours that all employees are expected to uphold.

Without clear direction and leadership, your business may keep plodding along, however the lack of cohesiveness will eventually start to show, and affect productivity and profits.

You should spend time analysing your inherent values, and document them into specific, clear words.

My previous article, Creating company values that boost company culture, explains my thoughts in more detail, and also outlines the process we went through to achieve our values.

Include a page within your website about your company values

These definitely should not be just static website content that you cut and paste somewhere deep within your website, and promptly forget about.

You should be using other opportunities to link back to these value statements. For example, they should always appear on your careers section, and also be mentioned within any corporate blog or social media. This helps you hire employees for cultural fit.

Some companies go one step further, and create slide decks that portray their values and culture. Here are some recent examples that do a fantastic job of explaining the cultures at these companies;

The Little Book of IDEO Values

The Buffer Culture

GoKart Labs Core Values

Asana’s Culture Code

For extra impact, you could also get written or video testimonials from existing employees, about what the values mean to them, and ask them to explain what the culture of your organization is.

How to hire employees for cultural fit

Reference these company values in any advertising for the role

We always make mention of our values in our position advertising, for example in a recent advertisement, we included a link to our company values page on our website, along with the closing statement of what the application should contain;

You get extra points if you have read The Bam Values and address situations where you have embraced these in your letter.

Many of the applications we received for the position had well considered responses to these values, and it is not burdensome to ask applicants to do so.

In this recent example, those candidates that did not go to the effort of providing these responses were not afforded an interview with us.

Discuss the values and how your culture is during the initial interview

You don’t want to hire someone and find out within days that they didn’t understand the role, causing you additional costs and time in replacing and re-training yet another candidate.

It is crucial that anyone involved in the hiring process has a good grasp of your company culture, and that they themselves personally display the right behaviors and attributes you expect in your values. This is key when you hire employees for cultural fit.

I like to explain what we look for in candidates, and how we work as a team; the good and the bad. In fact, many candidates are given a tour of our offices, and encouraged to ask any employees that are introduced to, any further questions around culture, teamwork and our mission.

Ask questions that relate directly to these values

During the recruitment interview, rather than just sticking to skill based questions, I recommend that you include a number of questions to determine the candidates personality and cultural fit.

Whilst asking for their own personal values is a good start, you will find more benefit by asking them specific questions around your values and determine their reactions and answers.

I like to also ask questions to determine who they are, outside of the office.

For example;

  • Tell me a little more about yourself; what does your typical weekend consist of?
  • Tell me what your most positive personality trait is, and why?
  • Tell me what your worst personality trait is, and why?
  • What values are important to you as a person?
  • If given the choice of any role here, what job would appeal to you the most?

I then get into specific culture based questions, such as

  • What type of team do you thrive in?
  • How important is recognition to you?
  • Have you read our values? Which one resonated with you the most?
  • How would you describe oru culture, based on what you have seen and heard so far.
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What is an example of a time you feel that you feel reinforced our value of [insert one of your values]
  • Do you feel the role you are applying for, has meaning?
  • Are you comfortable with our values and what they mean?

As you can see, rather than just asking a candidate to repeat your values, or find out what their favourite movie is, I prefer to dig a little deeper and ask questions to understand their personal motivations and drivers, and get a sense of how they would interact within my existing team and our culture.

When you hire employees for cultural fit, pay attention not only to their verbal answers, but also their body language and comfort levels. Feel free to ask for them to clarify an answer, if required.

By doing this each time you interview, you will quickly find out which candidates best resonate with your values and culture by doing this.

A great company culture example

Photo: Sonny Abesamis, Flickr

Ensure you have a solid induction process that involves cultural induction

We set aside a 2-3 hour meeting within the first few days of a new hire beginning to take them through a cultural induction process. This meeting has evolved over the last few years, from being a literal reading and discussion around our values, to a more formal approach, where we dig down into the values, what their intent and meaning are, and we describe behaviors that are both reinforcing and against each value.

Whilst this may seem superfluous from the outside, we have found that new recruits appreciate the additional time and effort that we set aside to ensure they are comfortable with our culture, and have an opportunity to discuss their concerns or questions with us.

Schedule a meeting within their first month in the role to discuss further

I always make a point of following up with another one-on-one meeting after a few weeks of the new hire settling into her role. In this meeting, we go through both the position expectations, as well as culture and values, and ensure that they feel comfortable in what they are doing.

I also use this meeting as a way to delve into their thoughts, as a new person within the team, about how our culture and work is, and what improvements or suggestions they could make, based on their prior employment history.

Stay positive. Negativity is a cancer that will spread.
– Ryan Hoover, Product Hunt

In Summary

We’ve now shown you practical steps on how to hire employees for cultural fit. Using these strategies before, during and after you’ve hired a new person, ensures that you will enjoy a happier, more productive team, more cohesiveness, a reaffirmation of your company values and better employee longevity.

Your company culture is very important; it provides your team with direction, a shared understanding of the behaviour expected, and is effectively ‘the glue that binds the team’.

Employees who embrace your culture and values go on to become great brand ambassadors; they boost morale and teamwork and help positively affect future recruiting.

Always hire employees for cultural fit first, and technical knowledge second.