Hiring for Fit: Finding People Who Match Your Corporate Culture

By Robert Half April 9, 2017 at 11:14pm

Your top job candidate meets all of the qualifications you’ve listed in the job posting, and then some. But are you also hiring for fit to match your corporate culture?

That question is as important as any you might have asked to gauge skills, aptitude and experience. And it’s going to be one of the most difficult to answer. More than six in 10 human resources managers surveyed by our company said they had misjudged a candidate’s fit with their company’s work environment. In the same survey, two-thirds said their company had lost an employee because he or she was not suited for the work environment.

Turnover is expensive and something firms want to avoid. The wrong person in the wrong job can also contribute to a decline in staff morale, collaboration and productivity. Whether the new hire is a toxic employee or simply a poor match for the position and team, the cost of not hiring for fit can be surprisingly high.

No part of the hiring process should be left to chance. You can take steps to ensure your preferred candidate and your organization’s corporate culture are an ideal match. Here are our recommendations for hiring for fit:

Hiring for fit through your job description

Begin by describing your corporate culture in the job description. Why? Self-selection is an effective means for thinning the applicant pool. The more complete your job description, the more likely you’ll spend valuable time assessing not only the more highly qualified candidates, but also those who believe they would be happy — and successful — in your workplace environment.

Happy workers are more engaged, loyal and invested in the work they do. They perform at a higher level — and that's good for your bottom line.

We can help you find the right candidate for your open role:

  • Gen Z details. If you think sharing your organization’s mission and values is little more than pro forma, think again. For the newest population segment to join the workforce, Generation Z, this kind of detail can be critical information. “Making a difference or having a positive impact on society,” was one of Gen Z's top priorities when looking for a job, according to a Robert Half survey. If your organization has a formal corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy, consider giving a brief summary and link to it; otherwise, a short declaration about ethical standards and corporate citizenship will still reassure, maybe even excite, many job applicants.

  • Perks and benefits. Perks and benefits also say a great deal about an organization’s corporate culture. Sure, most job seekers want to know about eligible time off and healthcare coverage as much as they want to know the position’s salary range. But think beyond the base package you’re offering. It’s fine to mention the ping-pong table in the conference room and the organization’s casual dress code. But what you say about work-life balance and professional development tells job seekers more about how the organization values its employees. Assure job seekers that corporate culture is not synonymous with a meat grinder, and that your organization appreciates — and rewards — employee dedication and hard work.

  • Clarity of intention. Now, state your wants. Consider the qualities you most value in your top-performing employees. Different roles require different attributes, of course. But if yours is a high-performing, deadline-driven office, it's best to say you’re looking for someone who’s comfortable in a fast-paced work environment. If your organization handles highly sensitive information, emphasize discretion and confidentiality. Be honest about both the job’s requirements and the work environment. Candidates should know what’s required to be successful in the position, and how their performance would be evaluated. Again, give job seekers the opportunity to decide whether this is a corporate culture they would thrive in.

Hiring for fit in an interview

You’ve evaluated cover letters and resumes, and put aside any with obvious red flags. You’ve checked out the LinkedIn profiles of the most highly qualified candidates, and you’ve identified who you’d like to interview. Now, consider the interview questions you’ll ask to determine whether the applicant’s knowledge and skill level are as impressive as his work experience suggests, and how successful he would be in your corporate culture. Here are the different types of questions you may want to ask when hiring for fit:

  • Open-ended questions. Ask open-ended and hypothetical questions during a job interview. The candidate’s answers can tell you how he handled challenging assignments in the past, and how he might resolve similar situations in your office. They can also offer insight into the candidate’s work ethic and whether it’s in sync with your corporate culture. Would the candidate handle an office emergency as a proactive, problem-solving employee, or is this someone who waits for direction? Do the candidate’s answers suggest he’s someone who’d achieve goals in a collaborative manner, or is he the type who’d break some china to get things done? Consider the qualifications required to succeed in the job as well as in the work environment when hiring for fit with your company's culture.

  • Closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions, too, can reveal a lot about whether the job candidate would be a good fit in your corporate culture. Assess a candidate’s tact and diplomacy when you ask why she left her last job, or whether there’s anything her current employer could do to make her want to stay. A simple, straightforward question like, “What kind of work environment do you prefer working in?” can tell you whether the candidate would feel comfortable or stressed in your open, lively and very busy office. Even more direct: “What are your values?” will tell you whether the applicant’s principles align with those of your corporate culture.

  • Nonverbal cues. When you interview the candidate, also pay attention to nonverbal cues. Did the candidate dress appropriately for the interview? Is he an active listener, or does he appear distracted or keep interrupting you? Does he avoid eye contact and shift uncomfortably when asked how his former coworkers would describe his work style? A word of caution here: You should assess the candidate’s demeanor as carefully as you do the answers to your questions. But reading body language is a difficult art, especially when meeting a complete stranger in a situation as stressful as a job interview. Do what you can to put the individual at ease, and take care not to dismiss nervousness as deal-breaking awkwardness.

Always research salaries in your market for the position you’re staffing. You want to meet, if not beat, what competitors are offering.

References and team feedback

No matter how impressed you are, always check a candidate’s references. This is your opportunity to gather testimony that will confirm your good impressions and settle any lingering doubts when hiring for fit. It’s also your opportunity to determine whether the candidate would be successful in your work environment. But as with every other step in the hiring process, be prepared when checking references. Here are some tips:

  • Dig deeper. Questions about the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, collegiality and job attendance are important, but go beyond the “what.” When asking about notable accomplishments, ask how the candidate exceeded objectives and expectations, and imagine how similar situations might play out in your organization. If you’re speaking with a former employer, be mindful that you might not share the same values and qualities, much less the same corporate culture, that the candidate’s reference highlights. Be prepared to dig a little to get the answers you need.

  • Employee feedback. If you have the time,seek feedback from the people who know your corporate culture best: Your team. Invite your top job candidate to lunch with the staff members she’d work with most closely. Afterward, ask the candidate and your employees separately how they would imagine working with one another, and whether the job and applicant seem like a good fit. Don’t be surprised if the candidate comes back with questions of her own. An informal meeting with staff would give plenty of clues about your organization’s corporate culture, from talk about workflow to management-staff relations. That can be a positive. There shouldn’t be any doubt with either of you that this is going to be an ideal match.

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