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How Do I Hire for Culture Fit?

Aug 8, 2019

Written by: Hayley Sykes

Got questions about trends, insights, and challenges related to Spinnaker’s areas of expertise? In this regular blog, we tap into our Spinnaker team of experts and do what we do best: Roll up our sleeves to find you the answers you need. In this installment “Ask Spinnaker,” we’re tackling a key hiring question all leaders ask themselves:

Question: How do I hire for culture fit?

Hayley Sykes, Spinnaker Talent Acquisition Consultant:

Company culture is critical. It’s at the heart of everything we do. Companies today work hard to define, create, and maintain specific and unique cultures. So it’s essential when hiring to find candidates who “fit” your culture, not just in terms of how you do business but why as well. Your company’s core values, mission, priorities, and behaviors should be reflected in those you hire — that’s culture fit.

Why Is Culture Fit Important?

In most cases, elements of culture are fundamental to each individual and simply can’t be taught or trained like other skills — making hiring for culture fit crucial to your success. In fact, one study found 9 of 10 recruiters passed on applicants who didn’t feel aligned with company culture.

In the long run, you’ll be more successful hiring for culture fit and accepting some skill gaps that can be addressed through mentoring or training, rather than hiring someone based on an impressive resume and trying to make him fit into your culture. That’s like trying to fit the proverbial square peg into a round hole. It doesn’t work.

Culture fit builds loyalty and satisfaction as well as productivity. When it’s missing, not only is the individual at risk for dissatisfaction, but often the entire team is impacted. Think of it like rowing a boat. If everyone is aligned and pulling in the same direction, you’ll advance. But if someone isn’t pulling in the same direction, or isn’t rowing at all, that’s a problem.

How To Hire for Culture Fit

In my experience, there are four ways to hire for culture fit:

  1. OWN IT

It may sound basic, but be sure you know what defines your culture, and keep it in mind during all interactions with a candidate. Structure questions that test for alignment. Evaluate non-verbal cues and listen to responses with intention. You’re not trying to trip up a candidate, but you are looking for evidence that confirms — or contradicts — whether she is a culture fit for your company.

  1. WORK IT

Put your money where your mouth is so your culture shines through in the way you do business and in the way you interview. How is your culture evident in the way you conduct business and treat customers? When talking with a candidate, keep these specifics in mind and ask questions that probe into how and why he works and thinks the way he does. These insights will tell you a lot about how well he aligns with your culture.

  1. LIVE IT

Lead by example and embrace your culture to its fullest during the hiring process. Share relevant anecdotes and examples with a candidate so she gets a real feel for your culture. If you can’t speak about how and why you live your company values, you can’t expect anyone else to understand those values, let alone align with them. The fundamentals of your culture should be part of your interview style and approach.

  1. PROTECT IT

Don’t hire someone with amazing credentials despite the fact that he doesn’t “gel” with your culture. When you have doubts about culture fit, take them seriously. Take a step back to reevaluate and ensure due process. And be careful you’re not ignoring the importance of celebrating diversity — like how a Millennial can fit in with a company of Boomers — because culture fit isn’t about that. Just remember, when it comes to culture fit, you can’t fix major disconnects. While it is tempting to hire a “rock star” who didn’t hit the mark culturally, you owe it to yourself, the candidate, your company, and customers not to. Your company has a lot invested in its culture — everything from customer satisfaction to employee retention to brand identity to profitability. You need to protect that investment, and protect your culture from disruption, dilution, and destruction. Period.

Final tip: If you’ve made a past hire that didn’t fit your culture, evaluate where you could have made improvements in the hiring process, then use that insight to course-correct going forward.

Could you be doing better at hiring for culture fit? If so, it could be time to reevaluate your hiring process to ensure your company culture is a front-and-center priority from start to finish.

 

We want to hear from you! Got questions about trends in your industry? Want to know more about best practices in a specific area? Need advice about a challenge you’re trying to solve? Send your questions to info@SpinnakerConsultingGroup.com, or post a question for Ask Spinnaker to our LinkedIn page by tagging us at @Spinnaker Consulting Group LLC. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves to find you the answers!