You’ve found a terrific potential new hire for a key role within your company. Her skill set checks all the boxes required for the role you’re eager to fill. Salary is amenable, and her references check out. But even before you consider adding anyone to the team, the most critical component of any great hire must be considered — your company culture.
A great hire is not just talent that fulfills the job description. A great hire is 75% Culture and 25% technical skills. That’s because hiring a person who mirrors your company’s culture is more apt to be a long-term, happy, and contributing performer. After all, you can train technical skills, but you can’t teach a person to fit into an organization.
But how can you tell if someone fits your company’s culture during the hiring process? It’s a tricky nuance, and unlike “proficient in QuickBooks”, an aligned cultural core isn’t easily quantifiable. You can lay the groundwork to better understand how a candidate fits into your business, and that begins by having a clear understanding of your company’s culture.
This Is Us
Culture isn’t demographics. You aren’t seeking people who look like you, or even necessarily think like you, as diversity of thought fuels growth and challenges the way things get done. Culture, in this sphere, is best defined in two ways: first, culture is a shared covenant of values and qualities that make up the ethos of an organization. Secondly, culture is the way a team performs — how we work.
More than ever, companies are espousing their values, through their branding, but even more subtlety, through their organizational behavior. People want to know what you stand for, how you treat your employees, how you treat the environment, and maybe even your stand on social issues. So, one should expect a prospective candidate to have at least a nominal understanding of your company values.
Expect prime candidates to be acquainted with who you espouse to be as a company, and to speak to it during the interview process. If they don’t, it’s your job to ask questions that reveal their thoughts on those values (more on this in a moment).
How You Work
Does your firm believe in consistent collaboration or tend to do better in separate silos? Is diplomatic disagreement seen as healthy in a team meeting or is it taboo? Is brainstorming around a foosball table an invitation to genius or an excuse for slacking?
All of these elements go into defining your company’s Organizational Culture, a collection of shared assumptions and norms about the work environment and how employees function. It’s “How You Work”.
For a new employee to “fit in”, it’s important that they are attuned to the most important behaviors that make up your Organizational Culture. A foosball match may not be a deal breaker but lacking a passionate desire for collaboration may be. These are the things you need to get a sense of, as much or more so than how well they would perform the qualifications for the job you’re seeking to fill. Remember, job skills can be enhanced, or even taught, but changing how someone approaches culture is akin to changing the weather.
Once you are engaged in active interviewing, be aware that candidates have become savvy to an interview process that speaks to culture and may have some prepared answers ready to share. This doesn’t mean they lack authenticity, but it’s always good to get an answer that is more spontaneous. This can be achieved by taking the candidate outside the normal realm of the job interview, such as a tour of the office, a chance to meet another employee or two, or invite them to ask questions so you can learn more about what matters to them.
Finally, if you’re serious about a candidate, have a candid conversation with them in a follow-up interview that is focused solely on culture. Allow them to interview with other team members and get a sense of how they adapt to different personalities. And always remember that diversity of background and thought are good things. Don’t mistake “culture” for homogeny.
Finding the Right Fit
Your end goal is to hire the most qualified candidates whose attributes and character best reflect those of your company’s. Focus on core values as much as you do an interviewee’s skills, education, and experience, and you’re likely to find someone who will thrive in their role, and help your business thrive in the process.
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