Candidate Cultural Fit and Why it Matters

August 4th, 2015
Jacqueline Lee
Candidate Experience,
Recruiting Teams,
Tips & Tricks

why culture matters In Part 1 of our “Why Culture Is Everything” series, we talked about how to define your culture. Part 2 will explore how to hire people who embody your cultural values.

This One Thing Matters More Than Experience and Ability

A resume tells you whether someone has prior experience doing a job. Field ability assessments can tell you whether a candidate has the skills to perform the job. Neither tool, however, tells you whether a candidate could execute the job at your company while exemplifying your values and feeling satisfied at work. RoundPegg co-founder Natalie Baumgartner, in her Talent Insights webinar “You Don’t Have a Talent Problem. It’s Your Culture,” says you should examine cultural fit in three areas: company, team, and manager. When you’ve re-defined your values, and one team or one manager isn’t coming around, new hires often become catalysts for change.

How to Determine Candidate Cultural Fit

Like many organizational psychology experts, Baumgartner recommends a structured behavioral interview to determine a candidate’s cultural fit. Make sure to insert one crucial question into that interview: “What are times you’ve been in a culture like this and it hasn’t gone well?” If your candidate mentions situations in which a culture like yours hasn’t been a good fit, ask follow-up questions so you thoroughly understand the situation. Keep probes like these short and simple:

  • “Then what happened?”
  • “Can you give me an example?”
  • “What did you mean by…”
  • “Tell me more about…”
  • “You mentioned that…”

Remember to vary your probes, and keep them short so you don’t break the candidate’s train of thought. If you’re getting a blank stare, move on and come back to the topic if it feels natural to do so. When you notice ways that candidates diverge from your culture, remember to investigate the topics in a way that doesn’t sound judgmental. When candidates badly want a job, they’ll try to tailor their responses to the answers you seem to want. You have to stealthily push past their aspiration to fit your culture—and delve into whether they actually will.

Bringing in New Blood

Keep in mind that “catalyst” is a chemistry term for a substance that speeds up a chemical reaction. When reactions are in process, they’re volatile, as are teams and managers in the process of change. Before bringing new blood into teams that are resisting change, let candidates know what they’re getting into. When they join resistant teams with their eyes wide open, and you invest in motivating and engaging them, they’ll positively influence the people around them. Alternatively, when you dump candidates into negative situations and fail to invest in them after you hire them, you’ll be re-advertising the position before you know it. Too often, we hire people without taking the time to understand who they are and how they’re wired. Tools like digital interviewing or talent assessment games give unexpected insights into who candidates truly are. Remember: Everything you do has to stem from your cultural values, including recruiting and hiring. Hire for the culture you want to have, and watch change start to happen.