Culture fit is very important in a company. By knowing what a company’s culture is, an employee knows how to make decisions and interact with both co-workers and clients. Culture creates a cohesive team and has everyone working towards the same goals. If used correctly, culture fit helps hiring managers make smart interview decisions that benefit the company as a whole. When used incorrectly, it can create division or worse bias clone hiring practises.
Creating a culture and defining fit
Culture actually comes from the core values, beliefs, and goals of your company. These contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organisation, and are different for every company. Without clearly set core values, you will never be able to truly define your culture.
Working out all of this can be done in a number of different ways. But it is critical that it gets done. Culture can influence small decisions, from how to respond to a customer complaint; all the way up to large decisions, like deciding if taking on a project is in line with company goals. But this can only happen when all employees know what a company’s culture actually is.
What hiring for fit doesn’t mean
Hiring for culture fit does not mean you are recruiting the same people, with the same backgrounds, education, and/or experiences. It does not mean hiring carbon copies of one another; but unfortunately, when you do not pay close attention to your hiring strategy, culture fit can occasionally lead to this.
It is very easy for unconscious bias to slip in when hiring for cultural fit within an organization – whether it be background, gender, race or even religion. Hiring managers need to be hyper aware they don’t fall into the trap of “This person went to the same university as me” or “They are so similar to me, I know we will get along great”.
If unchecked, we start to justify hiring people who look and act just like everyone else in the office; something that is dangerous for any company. Without diversity in an organisation there is less chance for both growth and creative problem solving. This, in turn, can lead a company to stagnate. It is important to remember we are not hiring our next best friend; we are hiring employees who fit with our culture, beliefs and goals.
Facebook is so aware of this pervasive problem that they have set up a training program to help employees become more aware of unconscious bias. Facebook has had so many requests to share their training material; they have made the course publically available.
Interviews that take away bias
This starts with asking the right questions in interviews. While technical questions are important, questions around culture fit are potentially more so. Change up your questions to ensure you aren’t asking questions that can lead to well-prepared canned answers.
- Tell me about a manager you really enjoyed working with and one that you really disliked working with? What was their style of management?
- Talk about a team you loved working in, what made them a great team? And what about a team you disliked working in?
- How would you describe the culture at your previous company? How well do you believe you fitted in?
- What does your ideal workplace environment look like? Why?
Then take it a step further to make sure that the information you got in the interview matches how they are in person. Go on a tour of the office, stop in at a variety of departments and make introductions. Take them for lunch. Ask them to sit in on a meeting. See how they interact and react to everyone they meet. Ask them afterwards what they thought of the environment, and have them describe the company’s culture. Be prepared that everything they saw may not be as you view it – be open to listening. They may even spot a problem you didn’t know you had.
If you are looking to have an unbiased opinion, consider inviting different levels of individuals from different departments to join you in the interview. What one person may notice as a positive fit, another may see as a negative culture fit. This leads to a more robust discussion before someone is hired, and may even prevent hiring mistakes from being made. As an additional plus; a candidate will feel more welcome knowing that the whole team agrees they will be a great fit.
Culture fit is just as important for candidates
Just as you should be interviewing your interviewer about the company, you should also be interviewing them about culture fit. Ask questions to find out about management styles, culture, and even how people interact with each other every day. You will be spending on average 40hrs a week in this company, working side by side with these people. Do their corporate goals, values and beliefs align with yours? It is incredibly hard for anyone to work in a company where every decision goes against personal beliefs. An interview is your chance to decide if a company fits in with your own goals and values.
Even through you are assessing someone for culture fit, make sure that you don’t stray into asking personal questions. Avoid anything around age, race, marital status, health, family history, religion or sexual orientation. None of these areas have bearing on a candidate’s ability to do any job. They only lead to legal liability issues. They are never justifiable questions or reason not to hire on the basis of cultural fit.
Culture is changeable
Defining a company’s culture shouldn’t be done just to tick a box. It is to make sure a company is truly aligned to create the best version of the company in the future. If it doesn’t, then the culture needs to be re-evaluated. Know that as a company grows and changes, so too may its values and goals. If that happens, make those changes and inform all your employees. If you don’t inform your employees, how can you expect everyone in your organisation to be working towards the same goals?
Once you have defined your culture it is much easier to hire employees that fit and thrive in your environment. Studies have shown that employees that fit well with a culture, and have a strong belief of the company’s values, are more likely to get along with co-workers, have greater job satisfaction, increased job performance and remain with an organisation longer.
Perhaps this concept simply needs a new designation. Stop referring to it as culture fit, and start calling it what it is – values fit.