Screening Candidates to Find the Right Cultural Fit

There’s a statistic going around that 80% of bad hires happen, not because of lack of qualifications or skills, but because of a poor cultural fit. With such a high statistic for mis-hires, how can you better screen candidates to find the right cultural fit for your organization or team?

Although there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, we can map out a path to help you make more successful hires. But it takes some preparation work!

1) Understand your own organization’s culture. Two factors determine whether a candidate will be a cultural fit within your organization. One is core values, and the other is personality traits. In order to discover whether a candidate is a great cultural fit for your company, you must first define your company’s culture.

For instance, we recently helped a successful manufacturing company find an operations manager for their family-run business. Many family-run businesses have a lot of “leaders” and fewer “followers”, so the employee in this position needed to be diplomatic and easy-going enough to get along all those in power, yet strong enough to identify, pursue, and address production problems (personality). The manager also needed to be able to help the team meet its deadlines, since under the current system, customers were not receiving quotes and products in a timely manner (core value).

Another service company, because of its high-demand clients, requires employees to work from 7:30 a.m. till 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those workers are 100% on task all day; it’s a killer schedule. So when they interview new employees, this company looks for a very specific kind of person—a competitive team player with a lot of stamina (personality) who is motivated by money (core value).

Here’s a tricky example from FastCompany.com of one company’s screening candidates to find the right cultural fit: Hubspot looks for employees who are team players with a sense of personal responsibility and the initiative to fix problems. When they interview, the hiring manager purposely leaves his used water cup on the interview table and walks out. If the candidate fails to pick up the cup and throw it away, he is not considered a good culture fit for their organization!

2) Ask your candidate the right questions. With your company culture in mind, prepare behavioral interview questions that will specifically draw out the information you’re seeking in a candidate who is a good fit. What core values have you identified in your company that you want to see in a candidate as well? Craft open-ended questions that target those values, and listen to what’s behind the stories your candidates tell you.

For example, let’s say your company values a family atmosphere where hard work and strong teamwork is imperative. You could ask something like, “In a previous job, have you ever worked on a group project? What was the project? What did you like about that? What was your team like? What kinds of difficulties did you run into? How did the project turn out?”

As candidates answer, really listen to what they’re telling you about their personality and how they interacted with their team. You may discover that they were the glue that held their team together. Or you may learn that they got the project done but only because they ran a one-man show…not the kind of employee you’re looking for. Remember that the right answer plus the wrong attitude for your company will equal a poor hire for both you and the candidate.

Screening candidates to find the right cultural fit takes some effort. But hiring employees who are fully aligned with your company values and culture gives them a better chance at fitting in and performing well right away. Their success and full engagement in their work means you’ll receive more of their discretionary effort. Trust me, your bottom line will thank you!

By Marcianne Kuethen

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