Article: Hiring for Culture Fit: Going Beyond Skills

Talent Acquisition

Hiring for Culture Fit: Going Beyond Skills

An employee with a great resume might not always be a great fit to your organization. But if ‘culture fit’ is so important, how do we integrate it into the recruitment process?
Hiring for Culture Fit: Going Beyond Skills

Culture-fit assessment works best when there are clear, behavioural definitions of what's required in the job


Over a dialogue with few Talent Acquisition experts; I heard a story which sounded little too familiar. It was a story of how one of them hired an executive a month back that had excellent business experience and financial acumen to fit in the new role. He shared how he had gone to great lengths to find the new hire who matched perfectly with the job description. He ticked all the right boxes on paper. Only to his dismay, the match ended abruptly last week. Looking back, he wondered if it was an ideal match at all. He had hired an executive with an intense and controlling style into a social culture where happiness and camaraderie were paramount; a combination unlikely to work.  From manager testimonials to exit interview data, a consistent pattern emerges as to why individuals like this executive fail in the workplace -- they just don't fit to the company’s culture. 

Finding the right employee is lot like finding a life partner. You don’t want a perfect person but a person who is perfect for you. Similarly, an employee with a great resume might not always be a great fit to your organization. Whereas, individuals whose personalities and values — and not just their skills — closely match with the goals and culture of the company, are more likely to thrive, work harder and stay longer.

So if hiring based on ‘culture fit’ is so important, how do we integrate it into the recruitment process?

It can be done via two ways. First is the self-select system where the company job advertisements, career portal and general candidate communications are peppered with cultural/values information about the company and the job. The candidate is expected to read these items and to decide if this is the job for him/her. One such company which does this very effectively is Walt Disney. One of their newspaper ad read, “Make new friends and become part of the friendliest cast on Earth! Get your dream job and create magic for our guests at Walt Disney World today!” These words and phrases are intended to attract the right person to the company. If a potential new hire thinks the words “magic” and “dream job” sound bizarre, they are less likely to pursue a job at Walt Disney World.

The second way to assess for culture fit; preferred by many organizations is using personality assessments. Though, there are no defined steps on how to use personality assessments to measure culture fit; the following suggestions are best practices which are quite realistic to incorporate in any organization: 

Define the culture in behavioural terms: Culture can be an amorphous and subjective concept (think about something like 'integrity'); most traditional measures result in confusion and ambiguity. Culture-fit assessment works best when there are clear, behavioural definitions of what's required in the job. Identify some of the behaviours which bring your values alive. An example of giving some observable shape to ‘integrity’ is by defining it with behaviour like ‘does not share confidential documents with any unauthorised person’. 

Conduct a validity study to define the personality profile that fits the culture: Once you have defined what ‘fit’ means for your organization; you need to understand what kind of personality profile will fit to your culture. Recruiters are often left to their own means to interpret the fitment of the different combination of personality characteristics. The validity study will help define the profile that includes the personality scales that will be used to make selection decisions, specifically scales that demonstrate predictive validity of culture fitment. Validity studies generally include correlating assessment scale scores with some form of criteria (e.g., supervisor ratings on the organization’s core values). Discussion of validity practices is beyond the scope of this article but the point of emphasis is that there are several options that allow for the proper validation of personality assessments for measuring culture/values. 

The most effective approach to selecting for culture fit is combining self-select and personality assessments to achieve a more highly engaged and productive workforce.

Fortunately, making the case for assessment of culture fit is not difficult. It is easy for the business managers to connect with the concept. Since hiring workers who contribute positively to the company's culture helps foster a great work environment. These employees become brand ambassadors, affect future hiring and boost the employer's brand. It is important to put emphasis on your company’s culture during hiring, since business impact of individuals who demonstrate fit is much more positive. 


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Topics: Talent Acquisition, Culture

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