Apr 13, 2012

I met with a client today who made me smile — a Cheshire-Cat-Eating-Grin Smile, as a matter of fact.

He said, “Heather, I need to invest in the screening phase to figure out if these candidates are a good fit for our culture and our clients. That way, I don’t have to give up resources when I fire them later.”


After I wiped the grin off my face, I told him I was proud of him and glad to hear it. (I refrained from reminding him I’ve been preachin’ that for years.)

Pay now or pay later … either way you’ll pay. 

If you are a recruiter, HR professional, supervisor, or leader who wants to fill the seat, there is no need to read more of this post. Good luck to you.

However, if you want to fit someone with your organization and have him stick, read on.

Corporate culture can be described as the “norms” shared by employees in an organization that control the way they interact with each other, with other stakeholders and with customers.

I believe corporate culture is made up of the following:

Vision & Mission

Where your organization is going and how it plans to get there are important to the majority of people who live and work on this planet. Take the time to educate yourself in these subjects and make sure you are communicating them to your candidates. Better yet, have your candidates tell you why and how they believe they “fit” within your plans.

Organizational Values

The principles your organization holds itself to (I like to say these are the things you are not willing to compromise along the journey) will speak volumes to potential candidates. Likewise, candidate values and behaviors should speak volumes to you. If you see behaviors that are at odds with your corporate values, it’s a good chance the individual will have a hard time fitting in.

Work Environment

Work environment can include things like dress code, office spaces, group/staff spaces, etc. It could also include things like ability to telecommute, group thinking sessions, meeting protocols, etc. Whenever possible, walk the candidate around, allow him/her to talk with staff during the screening process, and encourage questions about the work environment so there are no surprises (and mis-fits) later.

Leadership Style

Leadership styles are a critical part of an organization’s culture and sub-cultures. Consider what types of leadership styles are being used most of the time.  Don’t make it difficult; generalize into the basic three: autocratic, democratic, and laissez faire. Engage with the candidate about these issues. Tell stories, offer examples, etc. Trust me, if you throw a perfectly capable and competent person into a team where the leader is predominantly autocratic, you’ll be re-recruiting within six months.

Organizational Structure

Organizational structure is how your departments, programs, or offices are organized, what type of power/authority is delegated to them, etc. This has a huge impact on corporate culture as it strongly affects communication, efficiencies, effectiveness, and sanity. Engaging with candidates about their comfort level with autonomy, or lack thereof, or talking with them about what they see as the pros/cons of your structure may give you some insight into how they will fit into the “lines” and how they will manage to work “in the white space.”

Personal Qualities of Workforce

The qualities of the current workforce play a big part in the culture because they are the ones living and breathing it. I didn’t use the word “personalities,” but to be honest, personalities are a part of this. Is the staff a group of high performers or entitlement whiners? Are they competitive or complacent? Are they welcoming or do they live in their cliques? Are they social butterflies or hermits? These are the realities of the workforce, and your new hire will need to compliment them, not work against them.

In summary, corporate culture isn’t something the CEO defines and gets “blessed” and implemented. It’s the norms that are created over time by leadership and the workforce.

Culture shock is a waste of time for everyone involved so may I suggest you invest your resources now so you’re not wasting them later.

Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!