Using Corporate Culture in Recruiting and Selection

In Part 1 of this article series, published in February, we discussed how to identify your organization’s culture. I argued that by adding a fourth dimension ó corporate culture ó to your traditional set of hiring qualifiers, hiring managers and human resources can determine “cultural fit”: that is, whether the candidate will be able to fully utilize the other three dimensions in the organization (i.e. maximize performance) and be satisfied doing so (retention). Now we’ll discuss how to use this important information about your corporate culture once you’ve identified it. The key to incorporating this “fourth dimension” of recruiting into your recruitment and selection process is to add more value, not more work. Use what you have; just reframe it. Here are some specific steps you can take. Competencies Identifying cultural competencies will be an important part of your recruitment and selection process. If you have competencies in place for benchmark jobs, update them to include company-wide cultural competencies. For a customer-focused organization, you probably have the following competencies for the customer service staff. Consider including some or all of these in all jobs:

  • Compassion
  • Creativity
  • Listening
  • Approachability
  • Customer focus
  • Dealing with ambiguity
  • Interpersonal savvy

For process-focused organizations, you may want to update all benchmark job competencies with:

  • Planning
  • Working or managing though systems
  • Problem solving
  • Organizational agility
  • Priority setting
  • Process management

Recruiting In your recruiting, focus searches on companies with a culture similar to yours. You can identify these target organizations in a number of ways:

  • Ask current employees about their former employers’ corporate culture
  • Look for cultural hints on websites, annual reports, or employment ads

In your own employment advertising, you should try to implement a style that reflects your own corporate culture:

  • In a customer-focused culture, include service words and values
  • In a process-focused culture, include SMART objectives (Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Responsible party assigned, Timeframe)

Be sure to communicate your culture to your search partners as well, including researchers, search firms, and employees ó especially through employee referral programs. You can also build a reputation as an employer that supports a given culture through:

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  • Press releases to newspapers
  • Annual reports and other documents that might go to the public
  • Professional group presentations
  • Chat rooms

Selection In interviewing, build in behavioral questions designed to uncover cultural fit into all your interview scenarios. Here again you may be able to use questions you already use for customer service jobs, for example, into a standard set of cultural questions. For customer-focused cultures you might want to ask candidates for all jobs questions like the following:

  • “Sometimes for a person to be interpersonally effective it may be necessary to change to meet the needs of others. Tell me how you adapted to another person successfully.”
  • “Tell me about a time when you had to make someone feel comfortable when dealing with an emotionally charged situation.”
  • “Give me an example of a time when you had to meet the needs of a difficult or demanding person and you yourself were getting angry or frustrated.”

For a process-focused culture you could ask all candidates for all jobs:

  • “Describe a situation when you had to deal with both strict deadlines and the need to adhere to standard practices. How did you balance these demands?”
  • “Tell me about your experience in documenting your work in a proscribed format.”
  • “Give me an example of a procedure you had to follow to uncover errors.”

If your organization uses personality profiling for job fit, you already have an important tool on hand to determine cultural fit. Here is a table of personality characteristics that might provide an insight into all candidates’ fit for your organization.

Personal Attributes Customer Focused Process Focused
Accommodating X
Sensitive to organization structure X
Empathetic X
Risk averse X
Sense of urgency X X
Thorough/detail-oriented X
Cautious X
Creative X
Outgoing X

While people have preferred or dominant ways of behaving, behavior can be situational. If your profiling tool is sophisticated enough to tell you under what conditions a person behaves in a given way, then it is particularly well-suited to determine cultural fit. Measuring Success As with any other selection tools or techniques, your behavioral questions, competencies, and personal attributes need to be validated for your organization. This can be done through a before-and-after analysis that compares performance, retention, hiring manager satisfaction, and overall employee satisfaction between those hired before this initiative and those hired using cultural fit as an employment criteria. Here your existing applicant flow logs, retention statistics, and performance management process will all come into play. By using existing tools and skills, your organization can significantly enhance its recruitment efforts by adding cultural fit to the process. Human resources’ standing as a department that can impact the business results will be enhanced. Of greater importance, this initiative can have a positive impact on both maximizing performance, retaining top performers, and adding to the company’s bottom line.

John Miraglia is an organizational effectiveness professional with expertise in recruitment, applicant assessment and talent reviews, performance management, and learning and development. He has extensive experience in the financial services industry. He resides with his family in central New Jersey.