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People like us: hiring for cultural fit


When it comes to your workforce, skills and qualifications are important but cultural fit is the glue that holds an organisation together and it’s a key element to consider when recruiting.

In fact, a recent survey of international employers found that more than 80% of managers said it was a top priority when hiring new staff [Global Human Trends 2015, Deloitte].

Good cultural fit leads to other positive outcomes. Employees who are a good match for your business can experience greater job satisfaction, be more committed to the role and deliver at a high level of productivity, and are more likely to stay with you.

But, like anything worth having, cultural fit isn’t necessarily easy to achieve, with an incredible 87% of organisations citing culture and engagement as one of the top challenges they face [Global Human Trends 2015, Deloitte], largely because a company’s culture is personal to each business; it’s less about policy and more about people. So how exactly do you go about ensuring that you attract, recruit and retain the people who will help bring your company culture to life?

The answer is to introduce them to your culture from the word go. That means showcasing your employer brand or values via your job adverts, as these are some of the first touch point prospective employees will have with you. First impressions count!

So what is your culture?

Management expert and Professor of Psychology Adrian Furnham succinctly defines cultural fit as, “Where there is congruence between the norms and values of the organisation and those of the person”. As it’s often difficult for people to understand the culture of their own businesses, it may be advisable to give yourself a refresher by:

  • Studying the culture: Observe the atmosphere of your place of work and the interactions between colleagues. As important as what’s seen during this process is what’s missing; what important elements (if any) appear to be absent?
  • Culture interviews: While the previous approach is somewhat passive, a more active approach may be to interview employees in small groups. This provides them with an opportunity to deliver feedback directly, as well as an invaluable chance to see how they interact and complement one another.

How to attract candidates that fit your culture

Many companies use job adverts as a one-dimensional laundry list of tasks and qualifications required, without taking the cultural fit of the candidate into consideration. But the job ad is the perfect place to showcase your company values and ‘DNA’, and “speak” directly to the kind of people you want to work with. Equally, candidates want to gain a sense throughout the recruitment process of who you are and what it’s like to work with you.  Keeping cultural fit in mind as you create your job advertising means it will appeal to the most relevant candidates for you in terms of attitude and aptitude. Overall, this will mean more applications from candidates whom you will want to interview – and hopefully hire.

The language of your job advert should reflect the “voice” of your company. If you see your enterprise as dynamic, then use big, bold words and phrases that embody that sense of excitement. If, however, it’s a small family-run outfit, then bringing that sense of warmth and informality to life is essential, as those are your unique selling points. If in doubt, returning to the company’s mission statement is a good place to start; and if the company doesn’t have one yet, then begin by asking yourself (and your teams) – what matters to us? Why do we do what we do here?

Communicating those core values through your job ad will go a long way to letting candidates see who you are and what you might be like to work for.

What to look for in CVs

It can be incredibly hard to ascertain cultural fit from CVs, but there are a few key points to look out for – as well as some red flags…

You can get a good idea of fit by looking at the places that a candidate has previously worked. Is it a well-known organisation? If so, does it have similar values to yours? If it’s not a particularly well-known company, having a look at their website will provide a useful insight into its culture. It’s a good idea to pay close attention to dates, too. A short stint at an organisation with similar values to yours might signal that the candidate didn’t slot in as seamlessly as both parties might have hoped.

As cultural fit is such an individual thing, looking at what candidates have listed as their hobbies and interests may provide a useful insight into what makes them tick – and what they can add to the dynamic of the business. Things to look out for include whether or not they play team sports, take part in charity work and have taken it upon themselves to take courses that deepen their understanding/skills.

Interviewing for cultural fit

Once you’ve shortlisted the candidates that on paper look to have the ingredients you’re looking for, it’s time to get them in to see how they showcase these qualities in person. The following questions/topics should help to determine whether the individual sat across the table (or at the other end of the phone line) has what it takes to fit in with a workplace’s culture:

  • Describe a working environment in which you were most productive and felt most positive.
  • Who was the best teacher or manager you ever had? What characteristics did they have that made them so good at what they did?
  • What would you say your three biggest expectations that you have of a line manager/senior staff?
  • How do you feel about being friends with colleagues?
  • How would you describe your ideal style of working?
  • How would your former colleagues describe their working relationship with you?

Team player?

Teamwork is the fuel in the engine of a business, so finding out about an individual’s ability to work with others is vital. Asking how someone performed as part of a team is probably too vague however you can ask questions that reveal a candidate’s ability to make room for the ideas of others. For example:

  • Describe a working situation in which you had to compromise.
  • How did you go about this?
  • What happened as a result?

While the first challenge will reveal the individual’s openness to new ways of thinking, the last question will showcase their ability to learn lessons based on the input of others.

Handling stress

Emotions are a good indication of an individual’s attitude and values, so being emotional about work isn’t necessarily a sign that someone doesn’t fit into a business’ culture, but how they harness their emotions may do. Whether an interviewee seems nervous or as cool as a cucumber, it’s a good idea to ask them about situations in which they’ve had to handle stress and, more importantly, how they dealt with it.

Questions should include:

  • What’s the most stressful situation you’ve ever had to deal with?
  • What did you do in the face of this situation, and why?
  • What was the outcome of your actions?

Asking this same question of candidates going for the same role will provide a very useful point of comparison in terms of who’ll best fit the environment being hired for.

Scenario-based questions

Scenario-based questions are an effective way to get a rounded idea of how a candidate thinks and provides an opportunity to tailor questions that are based on the culture of your company. Is the business a family-run café that’s particularly busy during morning periods? Ask questions that deal with how they’d deal with a sudden spike in customer numbers and what to do if, say, the coffee machine suddenly doesn’t work. Even if the hypothetical situation they’re questioned on isn’t something they’ve come up against before, the way they go about thinking what they would do in that situation will speak volumes about their intuitiveness and proactivity.

Why this is important

If the candidate’s answers to these questions are in tune with your company’s values, this could equal a dream employee and a loyal brand ambassador. That will make the business a more attractive place to work, which is important because, as a certain Mr Branson once said, it’s important to “create the kind of… workplace that will attract great talent. If you hire brilliant people, they will make work feel more like play.”


To find the right fit for your company search our CV database or advertise a job.