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Recruiting For Culture Fit

Employers Tips & Tricks
Recruiting for Culture Fit

The concept of  company culture and recruiting for ‘culture fit’ has been around for a while, and a quick internet search will reveal the good, bad and ugly sides of what it can mean for your business. Whether you’re aware of it, or not, your organisation has a company culture, and this culture is just as important as your Vision and Mission Statement. Finding employees who will ‘fit’ your culture is critical. I promise you that their specialised skill set is not the only thing that gets them out of bed and in to work, motivated, and happy to be there. Many a research report has shown that the most engaged employees feel like they ‘belong’ at the company they work for, and that high engagement = higher discretionary effort.[1]

Meaningful benefits

This potentially significant benefit is why so many companies, large and small, look to identify their company culture, and then recruit employees who will be most likely to flourish in that environment. Corporate giants such as Apple, Google, and Netflix regularly make headlines with insider views and opinions on what it is like working for a place that has a very clear message to its employees as to what to expect, and what is expected of them, in order to successfully ‘fit in’. These companies have built empires with their company culture at the centre, suggesting that while there may not be any magic formula for achieving the perfect fit, it is certainly possible to find that sweet spot where  your employees and prospective employees (not to mention consumers) will want to buy into your culture.

It’s not the ping pong table

Culture isn’t just about whether you give them sweet gadgets on their first day, or that extra annual leave. Don’t get me wrong- you will certainly attract a crowd with those, but your company culture goes far beyond the perks. Even if your business isn’t the type that puts its company values on the walls, you have a culture.

First steps

So how do you recruit someone who will be the right fit?

If you start with a broad lens, what stands out? Does your company genuinely live and breathe its flexible working policies (whether that is remote, work from home, or flexible hours)? Do you see people on flexi arrangements being promoted or recognised just as often as those who are in the office doing 9-5? Maybe you have more of a work hard, play hard ethos. Is your culture all about consultation, or do you place more focus on autonomy? Are you focussed on taking risks or sticking to tried and true methods? Would someone be praised for making an on the spot decision, or be reminded that they needed to run that past someone first?

Whatever it is, be honest about that in your branding, advertising, and interviews. Your company’s culture may not be a selling point for some, but it pays to be realistic. If you have to pretend your environment is something it isn’t, then that fantastic new hire isn’t going to stick around long. Sometimes the quest to find that ‘perfect fit’ can feel like an epic journey, but there is always someone out there who will find it right up their alley. They are worth waiting for, and you will save valuable time and resources in the long run.

Team matching

Now that you have the attention of the right candidates, how do you take it the next step further and determine whether they will be the right culture fit for your team, specifically? Alongside the obvious competencies required for the role, what sort of person is going to gel with you as a manager, and be a great co-worker?

Some points to consider:

  • What is my management style and what kind of person would work best under that style? For example, are you highly structured, and expect the same in return? Or, are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person and not too fussed as long as the work is done? Would a person with the opposite working style as you be a benefit, or a massive clash?
  • What are the current strengths in the team? Perhaps you have someone who loves to plan, and inspires others to do the same. Maybe every one of your sales reps loves a fast paced environment, jumps right onto the phones and does not let up until it is home time.
  • What are the current weaknesses? Do you need someone who can fill this gap, or someone with more of that mindset to further boost current strengths to the next level? For example, you love that planner in your team, but could really use a few more so nothing slips through the cracks! As important as making those sales is, maybe you need reps who also thrive on taking some quiet time to manage their documentation, or someone who enjoys celebrating success and will lead the charge at letting loose after a tough day securing a hard won contract.
  • Don’t aim to ‘replace’ your team member who is leaving. Just because they were amazing (or terrible) does not mean that you need exactly that —or exactly the opposite— in the next person. Recruit for what you need now, not what you had. Change is good, and the team will adapt.

Even if you are pretty sure you already know the answers to these questions, it may be worth asking your team and others who work closely with you and your team, for their opinion to factor in. This is one of the best ways to uncover any unconscious bias you may have lurking about.

How to interview for culture fit

Finally, you don’t need quirky ‘culture’ questions in your interview to find a great culture fit! Asking someone “What Would You Do if You Found a Penguin in the Freezer?” (Thanks Trader Joe’s) or “What is your spirit animal?” (Hootesuite) might tell you something about them as a person, but it is not going to tell you if that person belongs in your team—unless you work for animal control. While I know it may be controversial, it also doesn’t matter whether they are a ‘drinks after work’ type or not. What people do off the clock has no impact on whether they can be a great team fit at work. Cultural fit doesn’t mean simply hiring people you like, or being discriminatory. However, by probing beyond the requirements of the job, and asking key questions that will draw out values and preferred working style of your candidate, you will have better insight into whether or not that great skill-match candidate, will also be a cultural match for your business.


Top Ten Culture Fit Interview Questions

This is a colossal subject, but hopefully I’ve started to paint a picture on where to start when recruiting for culture fit. I’m keen to hear your views and experience on this topic. Is recruiting for culture fit a part of your recruiting process?  Comment below, and I’ll send you my personal list of my Top Ten Interview Questions for Culture Fit.


[1] Burawat, Piyachat & Kuntonbutr, Chanongkorn & Panisa, M. (2014). The mediate effect of employee engagement on the relationship between perceived employer branding and discretionary effort. DLSU Business and Economics Review. 24. 59-72. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287268507_The_mediate_effect_of_employee_engagement_on_the_relationship_between_perceived_employer_branding_and_discretionary_effort