How a Job Candidate’s Going to Fit Into Your Culture

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Apr 21, 2016
This article is part of a series called Tips & Tricks.

A culture fit is that missing piece, the person who fills certain roles, thinks in certain ways, and whose skills and personality will complement, not duplicate, those of your existing team.

That means that culture fit will look different for each position, or even for the same position at different points in time. To hire well for culture fit, do some serious groundwork before you even post the position. Before you can create a metric to help you evaluate candidates, analyze your existing team members. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What personality traits could you use?

Once you’ve gotten a clear picture of where the new employee will fit into the jigsaw puzzle of your larger culture, prepare for the interview. Develop criteria that you and your team are comfortable with to ensure that you are basing decisions on the actual information conveyed by the interview, not on gut reactions. A good metric for culture and values fit begins with a clear description of the company, its culture, the position, and the personality traits required to succeed as part of the team.  Often, being clear about your needs and culture at the beginning of an interview will help a candidate decide if they are a good fit for your office.

Next, you need a list of questions and a guideline for judging answers. Here’s a good one to start with.

What was the culture like at your last company? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like? What parts were hard to adjust to?

Here are some possible ways a candidate will answer.

1 — Didn’t notice culture at all. Can’t describe culture in terms beyond ‘good’ and ‘bad.’

2 — States concrete things she liked and disliked, but they don’t match up with our company culture.

3 — Describes old culture clearly, likes and dislikes match up with our company structure

4 — In depth description of old company, likes and dislikes match with our culture, gives concrete examples of how she dealt with adjustment to new culture.

5 — All of the traits in No. 4, plus demonstrates clear willingness to adapt to company culture and to think about ways in which she can contribute to the culture.

Include questions that can give information on whether a candidate’s values and personality are a good fit for the position. For instance, if you’re hiring for a positon that requires attention to detail, you might want to ask the candidate to tell about a time when he or she had to restart a project to get it right. Detail-oriented candidates might have several anecdotes about this, while a sloppy candidate is unlikely to start over and may not be able to answer the question.

After a candidate is interviewed, evaluate their alignment with your team culture. Make a note of areas where there was an especially obvious strength or weakness to help you decide who to hire. After you hire someone, evaluate their cultural fit at three months, six months, and one year’s time. Use this data to help you adjust your metrics and refine your hiring process.

This article is part of a series called Tips & Tricks.
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