Should You Screen for Cultural Fit in the Hiring Process?



Cultural Fit should be a major factor in any hiring process, because it is one of the main reasons an employee doesn’t succeed or stay on once hired. With the cost of turnover to be avoided whenever possible, assessing cultural fit from the get go is a must. Candidates who fit into the company culture will contribute faster, perform better and have longer tenure.


A company’s culture is an integral part of its brand. It is part of the dialogue with customers and partners, and defines how the company gets business done and strives to accomplish its mission. Employees largely represent the competitive value proposition of the company. When you try to put a square peg in a round hole, it’s only trouble. Any 5-year old will tell you it won’t work! is famous for its culture, and the company’s business success has been continually attributed to its culture. The hiring process there consists of two different sets of interviews. In the first, the hiring manager and his/her team will do the standard set of interviews looking for relevant experience, technical ability, fit within the team, etc. In the second, the HR department does a separate set of interviews, looking purely for culture fit.


“We’ve actually said no to a lot of very talented people that we know can make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line,” blogs Tony Hsieh, CEO of Inc. “But because we felt they weren’t culture fits, we were willing to sacrifice the short term benefits in order to protect our culture (and therefore our brand) for the long term.”


When new hires come on who do not share the same management style, work ethic or communication style, it precludes them from integrating effectively and can disrupt the established groove. So how do you assess whether a potential hire will be a good cultural fit?


Prior to interviewing, make sure your team is all on the same page. Have them define the company culture and what it means in terms of personal and work characteristics and behavior, ethics and standards. Each team member should be able to articulate and promote what the company culture is about.


During the interview process, share your company’s culture and vision from the get go – this is part of selling the candidate on your company and on-boarding him. Elicit the candidate’s cultural preferences, by asking direct questions. Ask open ended questions about what candidate’s like best about the company culture where he is currently and/or at his favorite place of employment. Provide a scenario is which a problem arises at work (or have the candidate give a real life example), and ask how the candidate would approach (or in fact did approach) a solution.


Include people in various roles in the interview process, either as a panel, or in a series. The interview team members may include direct reports, managers, and other department counterparts. Rather than parading interviewers through the company conference room, introduce the potential hire to various team members within their work setting so as to acquaint him or her with the workplace and culture, as well as to get a sense of the candidate’s affinity with the work environment or lack thereof.


There are also cultural assessments available in the marketplace. While this is an additional expense, it is much less than the cost of hiring, on-boarding, and training a hire who then doesn’t work out. Estimates of the cost of turnover range from one to three times the new hire’s annual salary.


“Screening candidates for job fit is easily enough done when reviewing a resume,” states Heidi Clark, COO Redfish Technology. “The next step is assessing cultural fit and narrowing the pool of candidate to those whose cultural fit is in line with the company’s values and culture.”


“At Redfish, the company mission is to provide invaluable expertise and the ability to deliver top talent to exciting companies that inspire us personally for the mutual benefit and enrichment of all parties: the company, the candidate, the recruiter,” continues Clark.  “A productive team shares common goals and a common vision. Our company culture inspires us to achieve peak performance and success, and every member of the team is accountable.”

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