Hiring for Cultural Fit: 5 Tips

by Dr. Rick Goodman, CSP

It’s one of the hallmarks of the modern human resources department: A job applicant may have all the resume items, all the experience, all the career milestones you’re looking for. He might be, on paper, an ideal candidate—and yet, he might also be a terrible choice for your company. And it might all boil down to a simple idea: Cultural fit.

Cultural fit is not a nebulous or vague thing, either. It refers to qualities tangible and real: What are the values of your company, and how would the applicant uphold (or undermine) them? What is the team dynamic at your business—and would the applicant fit into that, or disrupt it?

You see, a really great on-paper candidate can be a poor fit for the team you already have in place; and while the on-paper stuff can all be taught or reinforced, cultural fit can’t be taught. To a large extent, it’s there or it’s not.

Thus, it’s important to make cultural fit a big part of the hiring process, and to make it one of the top priorities for recruiting new employees. The question is how; some answers are as follows:

Include some “behavioral” questions in your interviews. Don’t just ask about the hard skills, but soft ones, too. Ask employees to identify times when they have shown flexibility, when they have had to cope with stress, when they have been good team players, and so forth. Soft skills matter!

Be proactive in communicating your cultural values. When there is a poor fit, it can often be just as surprising to the applicant as to the employer. Communicate your company’s mission, its goals, and its culture early in the interview process, and ask for any questions the applicant might have about these things.

Don’t make decisions alone. “Fit” isn’t necessarily something that one person can accurately gauge. Make sure the applicant’s potential supervisor and perhaps a couple of other team members have a chance to meet the applicant and weigh in.

Ask yourself: Can I manage this person? Does the applicant seem teachable? Humble? Open to feedback? Don’t underestimate how important these things are.

Don’t ignore your gut. You shouldn’t make hiring decisions based solely on instinct, but neither should you pretend like your instincts don’t exist. Do you simply have a bad feeling about the applicant? Maybe your gut’s trying to tell you something important.


goodmanAbout the author: Dr. Rick Goodman, CSP, is a thought leader in the world of leadership and is known as one of the most sought after team building experts in the United States and internationally. He is famous for helping organizations, corporations and individuals with systems and strategies that produce increased profits and productivity without having the challenges of micro managing the process. Some of Dr. Rick’s clients include AT&T, Boeing, Cavium Networks, Heineken, IBM and Hewlett Packard. For more information, visit www.rickgoodman.com

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