Hiring a candidate with all the right skills is hard enough. But nothing is more tragic than realizing your new awesome hire just doesn’t fit into the company culture.
Maybe your office is lively and they need a quiet place to work. Or you have office jobs and the new hire really isn’t a dog person. Or there’s an essential personality clash between your new hire and your star team lead.
You see, even if the new employee is a rockstar in their own right at actually doing the work, office life can become a lot more difficult when one person doesn’t fit into the otherwise shared company culture.
But hiring for a good cultural fit is also one of the most difficult tasks any recruiter or hiring manager will ever face. How do you know if someone will be laid back or uptight at work? How can you tell if they’re picky about office music, a boss-pleaser that will annoy the rest of the team or a chill professional who will fit right in?
A bigger question: How will you know the difference between a candidates ‘interview persona’ and how they really are at work?
Today, we’re here to help you answer these tough questions with 9 tips on how to hire for a great cultural fit.
The first step, of course, is to actually know what your company culture is.
It’s one thing to be familiar with the way your team and colleagues work together. Yet, it’s another to actually be able to describe it and find someone else who will fit well into the group dynamic. So take some time to really observe, think about, and write down what your company culture really is.
Company culture is defined by how employees interact and, to a certain extent, the normal expectations for company employees. Being expected to work late to meet a deadline is just as much company culture as your tradition of making jokes over cube walls or the monthly ‘Cake Day’ for everyone who had a birthday.
In fact, here are some key questions/examples in knowing your company culture:
All these things will matter. The more you know about your company culture, the easier it’ll be to find a good fit for someone new.
Once you know your company culture, the best way to hire those who are a good fit is to share. Practice describing your company culture as clearly and honestly as possible.
Now, you might be tempted to leave out or sugar-coat some parts. Instead, try to present them in the best light possible. Remember that not everyone has the same priorities in a company culture. Some people like a lot of structure at work while others like to handle their tasks with no oversight. Also, some are looking for upward mobility whereas some are looking for a place where they won’t be expected to try for management.
So when building your careers section of the company website, provide a full and detailed description of your company culture. This will help job candidates who bother to “do their homework” to confirm whether or not your company is a good fit for them. In fact, self-selection is your best friend here since candidates are more aware of their wants than you could determine during an interview.
By sharing your company culture online, you’ll attract candidates who’ll be a good fit for your team. This also alleviates bad-fit candidates from wasting time during interviews that simply won’t pan out.
Next, take your newfound skill at describing the company culture and apply it to every job listing you write.
In the description, include a paragraph about what it’s like to work at the company. For online listings, you can link them to your company culture page as a shortcut. However, you also want to go into detail about what it’s like working as part of the specific team the position is for.
Take the time to write an honest description about the team that is hiring, including the expected working hours and the general style of the team manager. This will help you even more than the careers page because candidates start their searches at job listings. A job listing painting an appealing company culture will help you drive well-fit candidates; those who really do want to join the exact environment you’ve described!
Also, try to be as detailed as possible. If you’re the hiring manager, make an effort to include information about the role and your expectations for the new hire. This will help candidates determine if they’ll enjoy working under you. If you’re not the hiring manager, try to get this information before posting the job listing.
The interview provides a great opportunity to hire for company culture.
You see, resumes are perhaps the least useful way to tell if someone will be a good, cultural fit. Therefore, you want to optimize your interviews and ensure they’re as two-directional as possible. This means that while you’re interviewing the candidate, the candidate is also interviewing you.
Your job is to determine if the candidate will be able to perform the job tasks and work within the current working environment. Their goal is to determine if they’ll actually be happy in the role and, therefore, want to stay for years without looking for something else. Help them do this by being as up-front and honest about your company culture as possible.
If a candidate asks a ‘hard question’, now is the right time to reveal any less favorable details about the position. Interviewers are often tempted to gloss over tough details (like why the last person left), but any deception now will only result in either quick turnover or long-term resentment.
So be candid. Feel free to make jokes about tough managers, a boom-bust workload, or cliquish coworkers, but be honest when asked. Finally, be prepared for a few ‘strange’ questions that matter a lot to the candidates but you wouldn’t have thought of. Likely examples include whether they would be permitted to keep desk plants or call their babysitter at scheduled times.
Of course, candidates don’t always know how to seek the right cultural fit for themselves. They may not ask the right questions to rule out workplaces that would be a bad fit. So you can’t always count on an appealing candidate to handle the full responsibility of a good match. Meaning, being prepared to take on that responsibility yourself.
But instead of simply restating the company culture and hoping they catch the salient details, lead with questions instead. After all, it’s your interview!
We recommend asking a set of questions that’ll help the candidate define what they’re looking for and if they’ll be happy in your office. You might ask if a candidate likes/is allergic to dogs if you’re a dog-friendly office. Or how much they like to be managed if you’re trying to place them with a difficult supervisor.
Do not, do not, DO NOT skip calling references! Many hiring teams completely skip the reference stage or check once an offer is already on the table. This is a big mistake because you can learn so much about your potential candidate by phoning references. They’ll likely share a surprising amount about the kind of company culture they’ve worked well in.
When calling, ask their previous managers and coworkers what they seemed to like most (or least) about the company culture. You’ll gain valuable insights on how a candidate works and under what conditions they work best. Likewise, you’ll also learn whether your candidate really hated their previous position (and maybe why).
So whatever you do, always call the references when hiring for cultural fit.
When hiring for company culture, another issue often overlooked is how well they’ll get along with the team.
A candidate may have all the right skills and perhaps eager to join your team. Yet, it’s important to factor in the micro-culture of each specific team or report chain. You want new hires to get along well with their existing teammates as well as with the company as a whole.
So when you get down to your finalists, schedule interviews or activities that allow candidates to meet their team. You could also allow them to see the office where they might be working. If teamwork is the most important concern, consider arranging a small test-project where the current team and candidates work together to build something. This will test group dynamic and identify any personality/working style conflicts.
Or, if the issue is just getting along personally, conduct a team interview instead. Allow the team to ask questions and encourage a casual atmosphere where everyone can get to know each other. From this, you can get the team’s perspective on a favorable candidate and potential hires can see if they like the current members of your team.
Next, make sure new hires are immediately in the loop.
All too often, a cultural fit can slip out of alignment because new hires feel isolated and jerked around during their first few days. They don’t have a desk ready, they can’t log into the system, or they have no idea what the norms are beyond first-day training.
The best way to maintain a good cultural fit after hire is to make sure your new employees are connected to the internal business network from day one. Have their software and messaging system logins ready before they arrive and invite them to read the employee blog if you have one. Connect new hires to any internal resources on your network and encourage them to get up to speed by reaching out to mentors and teammates.
Internal communication is vital to onboarding new hires and making people feel like they fit into the team. Even those who didn’t seem to be a perfect cultural fit can surprise you by adapting quickly to your company culture. But only if you invite them in.
So get new hires entrenched in your internal network and communications immediately so that they never miss a single memo and can look up information for themselves.
Finally, keep everyone in your company connected to your shared culture through consistent policies and internal communication.
It may surprise you, but sometimes people slip out of a good ‘cultural fit’ even after being happily employed for years at your company. A new manager or even a life change outside of the job can change how people prefer to work or simply make them feel disconnected from a company where they once felt like a part of the team.
Keeping communication lines open and sharing information is critical to maintaining company culture. In fact, it can even help you continue to hire for good cultural fits through internal hires and great references from employees.
So share your company mission to keep everyone oriented in the right direction. Get employees involved in writing helpful blog articles for each other. And encourage your teams to stay in-touch on project progress and shared goals.
The key is to ensure that every employee is fully connected to the shared company culture through your internal network. Messaging systems, well-organized software, and shared internal resources bring your employees together to form that tight-knit culture that matters so much.
Hiring for a good cultural fit is a serious challenge, but one that can provide infinite rewards when done correctly. Through honesty, rigorous interviewing, and strong internal communication, you can significantly improve the chances that a new hire will be a great fit for your current company culture.
For more insights into maintaining and cultivating a great company culture, contact us today!