Cultural Fit: What You Need to Know and Its Importance in the Hiring Process

how to hire for cultural fit
How to Hire for Cultural Fit

Company culture can make or break organizational productivity. Whether it’s a quiet and professional office or a lively and interactive space, you’ve probably experienced how company culture can govern the way you present yourself, what you feel are appropriate ways of conduct or how openly you can communicate with others.

Companies can suffer from disparate views that block collective progress without an established workplace culture. Even the influence of a disengaged employee can snowball into hefty hiring and productivity costs in the form of individual quitting, associated burnouts, and wide-scale quitting.

This domino effect works both ways, meaning hiring culturally fit candidates to build a strong company culture can inspire organizational growth, workplace motivation, and employee commitment.

In the following sections, we will define what cultural fit is, what actionable steps to take for cultural fit testing in the hiring process, and what to be aware of. Let’s delve into it!

What Is Cultural Fit?

Before we define cultural fit, we need to first understand what company culture means. Company culture refers to the organizational and behavioral characteristics of a business. Think of it as a company’s persona or identity, which can be reflected in how customers are served, how office space is structured, how tasks are completed or how coworkers communicate. 

Cultural fit, or culture fit, is used at the interviewing stage of the hiring process to determine how well a candidate can blend in with an organization’s company culture. Employers may use cultural fit to gauge how a candidate’s work ethics and values, and not necessarily how their skills, line up with the organization’s operation and mission. The main purpose of assessing is to find out how compatible a candidate is with the company and its employees. 

An example of company culture could be a nine-to-five office job, wherein a suitable cultural fit could be a candidate who prefers an even work-life balance. Another example of a culturally fit candidate could be an individual who has interpersonal skills, is a frequent driver and can work on-call hours for a food delivery company. 

How a company structures its workspace can also affect company culture and cultural fit. For instance, an open-space environment at a tech startup might prioritize collaborative innovation while a more departmentalized accounting office may view organized, analytical individuals as a cultural fit.

Benefits of Hiring for Cultural Fit

✅ Helps to attract candidates.

Company culture can be the deciding factor in whether or not a candidate applies for a job. Subsequently, this can affect the number of qualified candidates that apply and the length of time job openings are left vacant. Around three-quarters of participants would either consider or neglect to apply to a company altogether based on cultural factors.

Thus, promoting a transparent company culture can alleviate recruitment efforts and help attract suitable candidates who might have otherwise applied elsewhere.

✅ Helps with employee retention.

Employees feel a greater sense of connection and commitment to the company when they enjoy the environment they’re working in. For instance, putting in place employee support programs can positively create a more open, transparent, and fulfilling company culture.

Cultural fit can enhance a sense of belonging which lowers the chances of employees leaving. This can positively encourage other colleagues to feel motivated, improve the overall employee retention rate, and even increase the rate of quality work

✅ Improves employee engagement.

If a candidate shares the same values as a company, they are also less likely to find themselves excluded, stressed out or unmotivated at work in the long run. More satisfied employees are also likely to be engaged for a longer time and deeper level, effectively boosting a company’s productivity.

Workplace culture is one of the strongest predictors, if not the strongest, for employee satisfaction in different countries and also among various industries in the US.

How to Hire for Cultural Fit

💡 Have clearly-defined company culture.

While it may be hard to brainstorm what defines your company culture, you can start by thinking about the tasks, operations, and responsibilities involved to get work done. Then, consider the most essential behaviors and expectations required.

For instance, if a job requires spending a large majority of time alone, such as for a night security guard, a company might need a candidate who is independent and prioritizes safety.

💡 Write a job post that communicates your company culture.

After you have defined what characterizes your company culture, make it known to outsiders and interested job applicants.

To attract culturally fit candidates, your job postings should give a snapshot of your company, what you look for in a candidate, or what your core values are.

Instead of defining your company culture in terms of hard skills or technical requirements, use adjectives that show your workplace attitude (e.g. dynamic, fast-paced, tech-driven, resourceful, etc.).

💡 Make sure your hiring manager discusses company culture with the candidate genuinely.

Develop training courses to ensure your hiring team is aware of inaccurate self-representations when it comes to assessing cultural fit for candidates. In some cases, candidates may unconsciously disguise their real thoughts and answers to favor their perception of the company’s values. 

To avoid biases, both on the part of the hiring team and the applicant, it may be helpful to employ open-ended questions instead of closed-ended ones in the interviewing process. For instance, instead of asking if a candidate likes the company culture, ask them what part of it they value. 

 💡Let the candidate experience your company culture. 

To get a less-rehearsed and more accurate answer, you can introduce the candidate to employees within the company and give a tour of the workplace. Follow up with open-ended observational questions about the candidate's opinions and thoughts on the work environment.

Based on the specificity of the candidate's response and what they pay attention to, you can infer if a cultural fit is in place. For instance, if a candidate gives vague answers without providing reasons or notices details unrelated to the workflow or company culture, there is likely a lack of cultural fit.

💡 Implement DEI hiring practices.

Learning to incorporate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices in the hiring process offers legal and practical advantages for finding culturally fit candidates. By integrating inclusive practices, employers are selecting candidates based on commonality in goals, rather than in physical or socioeconomic aspects. By eliminating potentially discriminatory or unfounded hiring practices, DEI practices can improve a company’s market standing, reputation, and potential for innovation.

📚 Further reading: 20 Culture Fit Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Cultural Fit Interview Questions

For job applicants, it’s important to consider cultural fit questions ahead of time to assess if a company is a good match for you, get a sense of workplace expectations, and show in an interview why you can contribute.

For employers, asking open-ended cultural fit questions in an interview—such as questions about values, organizational styles, or communication methods—can reveal a more candid perspective on an applicant’s approach to work. 

Here are some questions to consider when exploring a candidate’s cultural fit in the workplace:

  • What motivates you at work?
  • How do you interact with coworkers?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • What resources do you use to stay productive?
  • What risks have you taken and how did you handle them?
  • What kind of work schedule do you prefer?
  • What fuels your passion?
  • Are you an independent worker or a team player?
  • What would great management look like for you?
  • How do you make decisions?

Cultural Fit vs Cultural Add

Cultural add, or culture add, is about recruiting candidates with diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and qualifications. It can be thought of as bringing in different solutions to approach the same problem. Cultural add examples could include hiring risk-takers for companies that need speed or hiring challenge-loving individuals for businesses that want to adapt. 

Unlike cultural fit, which focuses on blending in with a company’s set of employees and work environment, cultural add prioritizes new ideas and ways of contribution. While cultural fit is about how similar candidates are, cultural add is about how they’re different. 

Although cultural fit can be great for productivity, it also has limitations in its execution. Hiring interviewers may end up selecting candidates based on personal preferences rather than on how they align with the company’s values, and miss out on what other candidates can offer. Using personal preferences as a standard for cultural fit not only holds discriminatory implications but can show a lack of effort to incorporate diverse mindsets.

Another consideration is that hiring similar candidates who think and look alike may not necessarily be more productive than hiring diverse individuals. In some cases, diversity is good for coming up with alternate solutions to a repeating or ongoing problem that a similar group of people has been unable to solve. Thus, hiring for cultural add can strengthen or even positively transform company culture in some instances.

How to Hire for Cultural Add

💡 Examine your company culture.

When determining how to hire for cultural add, examine your company culture in terms of needs rather than instinctual feelings, personal preferences or status quo norms. This will help give you clarity on the goals of the company and limit the room for bias.

Think about what is or is not acceptable in the company, what the priorities of decision-makers are, and what the company’s core values are. 

Perform a company cultural gap analysis.

A company cultural gap analysis is a review of what a company is lacking in terms of skills and mindsets.

For instance, check if your company has an overabundance of conformists. If so, determine if there is a healthy number of employees with strengths in opposing or complementary areas. Assess if there are employees who work outside of their comfort zone and push for new ideas.

Conclusion

Cultural fit plays a key role in the screening process. Candidates who align with companies’ values can bring major benefits to the table, some of which are lowering recruitment expenses, improving retention rates, and encouraging deeper engagement. 

To assess a candidate for cultural fit in the hiring process, ask open-ended questions for more genuine insight. Avoid asking yes-or-no questions or unrelated personal questions that might introduce interviewee or interviewer bias.

While cultural fit looks toward similar approaches to work, cultural add focuses on how candidates can offer different perspectives that target a company’s gaps in skills or qualities. As a result, cultural add can help companies form new solutions and reduce biased or discriminatory practices. 

Cultural fit plays a key role in the screening process. Candidates who align with companies’ values can bring major benefits to the table, some of which are lowering recruitment expenses, improving retention rates, and encouraging deeper engagement. We encourage all HR executives to ask open-ended questions for more genuine insight when assessing a candidate for cultural fit in the hiring process. Yes-no questions or irrelevant personal questions are to be avoided at all costs since these questions can trigger interviewer and interviewee bias.

Besides cultural fit candidates, organizations can also look for cultural add candidates who can offer different perspectives to fill in the gaps in skills or qualities. This ultimately can lead to a successful operation, biases lessening, and discriminatory practices decreased.

Want to recruit gems for your talent pool? Follow our blog to read more about hiring tips, resources, and tutorials, or simply use our Recruitment Service to acquire talents from all industries.

— Originally written by Flora Lai —

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