How do you hire for culture fit?
The first step to take when hiring for culture fit is to have a deep understanding of the organization’s culture. Many organizations will have a defined mission statement, a set of espoused organizational values, and common practices or norms. These are typically influenced by the organization’s founders or current senior leadership and managed by Human Resources. However, sometimes the reality doesn’t match up with this, especially if the organization historically hasn’t been hiring with culture fit in mind or has experienced significant change since the culture and values were initially defined.
To understand what your organization’s culture and values are, you could conduct a survey with current employees, or conduct focus groups with a neutral facilitator. As culture is often driven by leaders, interviews with senior leadership that explore the organization’s mission, purpose, and vision can also help to define the culture.
Once you have a clear idea of your organization’s culture and values, it is important to incorporate this into the selection process in a robust way. Often, decisions about an applicant’s ‘fit’ are made by subjective judgements formed by the hiring manager or other individuals involved in the hiring process. Research has shown that people are not very good at forming accurate judgements of another person’s fit, and their determination of this will often be influenced by the degree of perceived similarity between themselves and the applicant. This is where hiring for culture fit can go wrong and pose a threat to diversity; an applicant’s fit should have nothing to do with whether they support the same football team as their hiring manager, for example.
If possible, assess for culture or values fit early in the selection process, before you have met the candidate face to face. This can be done using a values assessment. When you do interview them in person, use a structured interview format and stick to job-relevant criteria. Avoid focusing on personal interests or hobbies or trying to identify common life experiences.
Finally, remember that culture fit is a two-way process. While you are trying to make judgements about candidates’ level of fit, they are doing the same, trying to gain insight into the culture of the organization to decide if it is right for them. Portray an honest representation of your organization’s culture and values. For example, there is nothing to be gained by telling candidates how much innovation and new ideas are encouraged even when this is not the case. If hired, they will ultimately discover the organization was not the right fit for them, increasing the likelihood of them leaving.