Your first impression of a candidate is usually their resume. A strong resume can be a powerful thing. Maybe you notice that a candidate attended a prestigious university or has an impressive work history at several acclaimed companies. Maybe you schedule an interview, and they show up dressed to the nines and say all the right things. You’d be foolish not to hire them, right?

 

Don’t be too quick to nod your head in agreement. The answer isn’t as straightforward as it might seem.

 

Just because someone seems like the best candidate for a role doesn’t mean they’re the right hire. Dressing well doesn’t translate to professionalism or confidence. Attending a prominent college isn’t as important as pursuing the right passions. Working at a number of notable companies doesn’t make someone a good team player. How does that candidate stand up to the culture you’ve already established? Would their work ethic, character traits, and long-term goals complement or be at odds with the rest of your team?

 

These are some of the questions business leaders must consider before finalizing a hiring decision. A decade ago, cultural fit did not hold much weight in the hiring process. Then came companies like Zappos, whose CEO, Tony Hsieh, has spoken very candidly in interviews about not hiring exceptional candidates if they don’t fit his company’s culture and firing those who don’t inspire it either. Instead of judging candidates on the hard skills listed on their resumes, Hsieh is more concerned with hiring for cultural fit. And I believe this approach is critical to business success.

 

Before I dive deeper into how you can assess a candidate’s cultural fit, I want to talk about why this hiring approach is so crucial.

The Importance of the Person-Culture Fit

Of course, finding the right person for the job is important, but you can’t sacrifice finding the right person for the culture, either. There are a few reasons why the person-culture fit is so significant.

Increased Employee Engagement

Gallup has been doing employee engagement research for over 50 years now, and that research consistently shows that engaged employees create better business outcomes than other employees. If employees are excited about where they work and they believe in the continuity of their team, they aren’t only going to work harder, they’ll work better. 

Reduced Employee Turnover

It doesn’t matter how passionate an employee is about the work they do, they will leave a company if they don’t feel like the culture is a good fit. If your new hire doesn’t complement the team, they’ll eventually leave or need to be let go. On the other hand, if you hire too many candidates that don’t mesh with the rest of the team, you also risk losing your best employees.

Boosted Industry Reputation

Employees talk, and news spreads fast. If your company prioritizes employees and culture, you’ll find that more candidates will begin jumping at any hiring opportunities you list in the future. When you attract more top talent to your company, you gain a competitive advantage in your industry.

 

Now, let’s discuss how you can ensure you hire the right candidates for cultural fit.

Hiring the Right Candidate, Not the Best Candidate

If you’ve always based hiring decisions on flashy resumes, you might not know where to begin assessing for culture fit. These are a few of my top suggestions.

Ask the Right Questions

You want to get an idea of a candidate’s past experience, but there are other questions you can ask that will help you understand the culture they’re looking for and if their ideal culture meshes with yours. 

 

  • Can you describe your ideal work environment? 
  • Can you describe a work environment in which you’d be unhappy?
  • Are there any elements of teamwork you dislike?
  • What motivates you in your day-to-day work?
  • What are the ideal characteristics of a great boss/manager?

 

How they answer these questions should make it obvious whether what they’re looking for aligns with what you’re looking for.

Do Background Research

Take your time when vetting candidates. Does a Google search uncover any red flags? Do any inappropriate social posts or pictures appear? How someone presents themselves during an interview is important, but you can learn a lot more about a person from how they behave outside of the office. 

Involve Your Team Members

Include your current employees in the interview process. Whoever you hire for the role will be working directly with your team, and who better to form an opinion about a candidate than the employees who already work for your company? 

Trust Your Instincts

Practice makes perfect. The more experience you have hiring for cultural fit, the better you’ll be at sensing who is right and who is wrong for the job during the first interview. If you find yourself second-guessing yourself at any moment, take that as a sign. Never settle for a candidate that fills you with any sense of doubt or unease. 

 

Hiring for cultural fit is a two-way street. Not only do you want candidates to fit into your company culture, but you should also want your company to be a good fit for their values. A successful culture, and business, relies on both.