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Does That Candidate Fit Into Your Culture?

Editorial Commentary: Maren Hogan

You have a strong team, an awesome culture, but you need to hire as business continues to grow. How do you know that the people you are going to interview have what you want to fit into your culture? Hopefully, you are taking them through rounds of interviews, assessments and screens to understand how they will fit into your culture. If you’re not doing this, you might be hiring candidates that won’t fit in and they won’t last with your company. Not only will this make them frustrated and unproductive, it could upset the cultural balance you’ve already built and it could even disengage people who are working well today. So, how do you avoid it?

If you’ve done your job correctly, you’ve likely ensured you have a great job ad that is honest about what it’s like to work at your company. Perhaps you even included a video around the team your new hire will be working with and maybe, even for bonus points, you included a personality and work values assessment. Even if you’ve done all of these things, you may still be headed for a cultural mismatch. Remember, while people do self-select out of certain roles, there are just as many people who just really want a job, any job they’re qualified for.

Or you just read the cards wrong. Most managers make at least one hiring decision that turns out to be a misfit. 1 out of 2 people won’t last more than 18 months at their job, mainly due to a mismatched cultural fit. In fact, cultural fit is the area in which the greatest number of costly mistakes happen. On average to replace a $50,000 per year employee it’s $9,850. Executive hires are even higher, with even the minimum amount lost to hire and onboard an entry level hire at a cool $4k.

If you’ve made it to the interview, don’t leave that kind of money on the table. Below are the 3 most common mistakes made when interviewing for cultural fit.

1 out of 2 people won’t last more than 18 months at a job, mainly due to a mismatched cultural fit. Click To Tweet

Interview Questions Directly About Culture

A no-brainer, right? When interviewing for cultural fit, ask about culture. Actually, not so much. When assessing cultural fit, don’t use direct questions about culture, such as “Tell me what work culture motivates you.” or “What is the culture like where you work?”

Direct questions about culture don’t help you gain insights into the candidate’s fit. This sets the candidate up to use words to describe culture which are mostly meaningless and give you their pre-rehearsed perfect answer. Instead, ask about their former workplaces and co-workers, ask about situations in which they thrive and what about their work situation made that possible. Group their answers into different areas. If the candidate’s answers are all around compensation (and you have an awesome workplace but a fair-to-midline comp package) they may not be the best fit in the long run. Similarly, if you hear about a lot of work-life balance and your company simply doesn’t offer that (or can’t) you may want to take a pass.


Direct questions about culture don’t help you gain insights into the candidate’s fit. Read more: Click To Tweet


Asking For Specifics & Not Listening For Cultural Fit Answers

This is where many interviewers mess up. They perceive questions about results as being only what the candidate accomplished and forget to listen to the way they earned the results.

Listen carefully to clues about how the candidate achieved their goals. You might be given clues as to a part of their culture that you don’t want to support, like not being a team-player or their inability to learn something quickly. You can always go back to the resume to see how much Kelly increased the sales numbers by in Q4, but it’s only by listening in the interview that you’ll hear he involved a junior team member and created a new mentorship program in the process. If your culture reflects his or her values, you’ve got a winner!


Listen carefully to clues about how the candidate achieved their goals when hiring for cultural fit. Click To Tweet


Not Involving A Team Member To Assist In Figuring Out Cultural Fit

Are you doing all of the interviewing all by yourself or are you using a team to help you make hiring decisions?

Hopefully you are using a team to interview candidates. Using a team will give you a broad understanding of the candidate from cultural fit to their work ethic. Assign 1-2 team members to interview the candidate to assess if the candidate will fit into your culture or not. Not into marathon interviews and sense your candidate won’t be either? That’s okay, you can have your team members invite them in for coffee while he or she waits for the main interviewer or even show the new hire around the office. The goal is to create an opportunity for your team to see what this person is like without a specific power balance in play or when they think the interview is over/hasn’t started yet.

Hiring for cultural fit might take longer than hiring someone based only on skills. If you’re struggling to find ways to determine a candidate’s fit, try out adjusting your strategies based off of the 3 common mistakes. You’ll not only help the company succeed, but you’ll also help out the person succeed in their new position.


Want to read more about hiring from the ground up? Check out our Slideshare and article about how we did just that!
[slideshare id=54312601&doc=wi-shrm-takeaways-2015-151023170231-lva1-app6892]