Hiring for Cultural Fit? Here’s What You Should Know

August 11, 2019 – Working with talent acquisition and HR leaders, you often hear this: “We hire for cultural fit, first and foremost.” But what does that mean, and how is that fit assessed? “Well, sometimes it’s whatever a hiring manager wants it to mean and that can be a big issue, leading to poor hiring decisions fraught with bias or even legal liability,” said Nick Misener in a report by recruiting firm David Alpin Group.

“Properly defined corporate culture and values can empower employers to make faster and better hiring decisions,” he noted. “Before I go too far, let me clarify that I’m not definitively saying cultural fit is more important than targets, results, capabilities, competencies and performance. Hiring can be a complex process that requires the assessment and weighing of multiple criteria. However, fit itself is a significant factor in that equation.” So where do you start?

“First, you should look at why hiring for cultural fit is important for your organization,” Mr. Misener said. “Stakeholder buy-in or sponsorship is essential in this process. I think most companies and organizations can agree that if an employee’s values and motivations don’t align with their own, it can become a big issue. Alternatively, strong cultural fit can inspire performance and increase loyalty.”

What Is Cultural Fit?

What is culture fit? This is the question that employers should ask, and make decisive efforts to define. Broadly speaking, cultural fit means that an employee’s beliefs and behaviors are in alignment with their employer’s core values and company culture. For each company that can mean something inherently different.

Hiring for cultural fit starts with being able to clearly articulate what the organizational culture is. What are the aligned values, beliefs, behaviors and experiences that make up the organization’s environment? Some organizations will approve the creation of a company mission statement and company values. Mr. Misener noted that a poorly defined culture, or a definition that doesn’t match reality is equally problematic.

It is important to reflect, therefore, and ask yourself these questions:

• Does the culture you articulated match reality or is it wishful thinking?

• Are your company values actionable or do they live in an employee handbook / on a plaque on a wall?

• Do they influence business decisions and bring people together or are they essentially lip service?

“If the answers to any of the above questions make you pause, there’s likely a misalignment between what you said your culture was compared to what exists – and that causes strain,” Mr. Misener said. “You’ll bring on the wrong people and potentially turn away the right people for your business. Your hiring decisions, policy and direction as a company will be, more than likely, inconsistent or worse.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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