Culture Fit: The ultimate key to hiring success?

Believe it or not, but according to Forbes 89 % of hiring failures are due to poor cultural fit. This figure should be a wake up call for many companies who believe that skills is all that matters, while culture fit is just a temporary buzzword. Hiring a candidate just because he fits perfectly in your corporate culture doesn’t mean that the person will be able to make an instant impact on your bottom line, I admit. What a company needs to aim for is a candidate who makes a great job fit as well as culture fit (the compatibility of an individual and a company’s values, beliefs and attitudes).

If a candidate meets both these criteria the benefits can be huge: greater sense of harmony, higher job satisfaction, faster contribution, superior performance, longer retention, better identification with the organisation, higher commitment, higher self-esteem, better physical as well as mental health (leading to less depression and anxiety), saving the company some money (no need to spend additional money in order to replace poor candidates) and having a happier person at the workplace.

Several other surveys also highlight the fact that considering the ‘cultural fit’ aspect in the selection process plays a key role.

  • 9 in 10 recruiters have rejected candidates due to their lack of cultural fit. 82 % say that measuring cultural fit is important and almost 100 % agree that cultural fit is not just a buzzword. (Survey by Cubiks Netherlands)
  • 60 % did not work well with other employees due to a lack of cultural fit. (Career Builder, Poll in 2012)
  • 81 % of respondents agreed that cultural fit, not the time and cost to hire of a role, is the most important recruitment factor. While 11 % disagreed saying that priorities can vary depending on the company and sector. (TMP HR Pulse survey)
  • 78 % of respondents believe that organisations and hiring managers do not assess for culture fit because they do not know how to do it. (Development Dimensions International, Research Paper)
  • 67 % of job seekers say that finding a company with similar values to their own is important. Corporate culture was the top priority when applying for a job, leaving market presence, financial performance and longevity behind. (RoundPegg survey)

Here are some strategies as to how a company can hire for culture fit:

1) Make sure you know what the core culture of the organisation is. If you don’t know it yet write a mission/vision statement. Ask yourself: What is most important to the company? What are the companies values, principles, belief systems, habits, vision, norms, working language, symbols, written and unwritten rules, traditions, customs? 

2) Ask the right questions. Behaviour based questions will reflect past behaviours and reveal future behaviours, while other questions will tell you what the candidate’s values and priorities are. For example:

  • Please describe the working environment that would allow you to give your best.
  • Is there anything that would make it difficult for you to perform to your full potential?
  • How would your perfect working day look like? What would you do and what would you want to avoid?
  • If you choose to work for a company, what is your priority with regard to that business and its culture?
  • What do you appreciate the most in your daily job at your current company?
  • Are there any episodes at your current employer which have disappointed you with regard to their corporate culture?
  • What is your attitude regarding teamwork/flexible working hours and risk taking?

3) Bear in mind that an interview is a two-way process and that a smart jobseeker might also want to test your answers with regard to culture fit. Be prepared to answer questions, such as:

  • What would you change about this company if you could do it? Why?
  • How did this job vacancy become available?
  • How does your company reward success and how are mistakes being dealt with?
  • Jobseekers do their research and often find useful information about a company’s culture by reading a company’s Twitter tweets, looking at the company’s Facebook page, reading the latest corporate news and what other third party review sites have to say.

4) Make sure the focus is on the candidate’s compatibility with the core values of the company and not the recruiter’s values. The person should be in sync with the job position, the work atmosphere, management and corporate goals.

5) Offer insights into your company in a visual or audio format. Let other employees share what it feels like working for your company and share what their jobs and experiences have been so far. Publishing pictures and videos on social media sites is one method of doing it.

6) Offer different types of social get-togethers, for example trial work periods for a limited time, social meetings after an interview, etc. can be considered too. It will show the candidate in a different scenario which can be more revealing than one might think. Furthermore, company’s employees will be able to tell straight away whether the person is a good fit or not.

7) Check the candidates references by not just focusing on their past work performance but by getting relevant information which reassures their cultural fit in your company.

If the culture factor is being ignored it will lead to a toxic environment among other team members, and people will leave after some time because they feel unsatisfied. This will have a negative impact on both the employer as well as the employee: waste of time, money and lost opportunities for progression. It is very difficult (or even impossible) to make people change their values, it is something that you can’t just train or develop in a couple of hours. Even Richard Branson stated once “Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality.” That explains why many companies hire first for culture and plan to train for skill later on. However, getting candidates who are a great job fit as well as culture fit right from the start are always the best option.

If you hire people who believe in your products/services, share your vision and embrace your values, you will work with talents who are self-motivated, give more than 100 % and help you to achieve your corporate goals quicker and better. Who would not wish for that? When hiring people your main concern should not just be “Is the person able to carry out the job?” but “Will this person fit nicely into the company’s team?” It cannot be emphasised enough that culture fit is not just crucial when it comes to the attraction but also the development and retention of future employees. Also in the future it will remain the key to hiring success and lead to the highly sought-after ‘competitive advantage’. 

Karin Schroeck-Singh
Karin Schroeck-Singh is a passionate Public Speaker, eBook Author, and a freelancing Online Content Producer. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 18 years of international work experience in Italy, the UK and India.