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How to Make Sure Your Next Hire is a Culture Fit

I’d argue that culture fit is one of the most important factors when it comes to retaining talent. There is an old saying, “one bad apple can spoil the bunch” and I couldn’t agree more. Hiring the wrong fit can cost you time, morale and productivity as well as dollars. The challenge? Culture fit is subjective, arbitrary and highly personal, but it’s also critical. While you can never truly know how someone will mesh with your team and company until he or she has been employed for a while, there are some key things you can do during the interview process to improve your chances of hiring the next rising star.

1. First, you need to define your culture. What are aligned values, beliefs and behaviors that make up your organization’s environment? What is your mission statement? It sounds obvious, but knowing what your company values most is critical when hiring new employees. Consider your top performers and evaluate what makes them successful from a qualitative point of view. What are the interpersonal dynamics on your existing team? What is working well? What parts of your company culture are less than perfect? Asking yourself these important questions is a good way to paint a picture of what your ideal hire should bring to the role.

2. Ask situational questions. Determining whether someone will be a good cultural fit starts in the interview. It is important to ask the right questions – and not just questions related to the candidate’s technical experience. Asking open-ended, “what would you do if…” questions can give you valuable insight into a candidate’s work style and how he or she will respond to potential challenges. If collaboration is a critical part of your company culture, ask them how they like to work. Taking real-world examples of situations your team has faced is a smart idea to gauge how a candidate might fit into your existing team.

3. Solicit multiple opinions. Involve peers, direct reports and managers in other departments in the hiring process. Compare interview feedback notes from everyone who has met with the prospective hire. Are there any common themes? Alternatively, are there any major inconsistencies? Considering various points of view about a candidate can help you determine if you have a good match. 

4. Look for ways to incorporate spontaneous interactions during the interview process. Take the candidate on a tour of the office. Let them sit in on a team meeting or have them join you in the kitchen for a team lunch. Do they seem energized by the fact that teams eat lunch together every day, or do they comment about the noise level in the kitchen? This can reveal a candidate’s genuine personality and can help you assess their comfort level with other members of the team. 

5. Embrace diversity. The ideal hire may very well be the guy who is completely different from everyone else on your team. For example, is your team full of vocal extroverts who could benefit from a more reserved, thoughtful team member? Do you have a few “big picture” types who could benefit from someone who is more detailed and tactical? It’s important to know what your team’s shortcomings are, and finding balance is key to making a long-term hire who will thrive on your team. 

6. Set the proper expectations and above all, be honest. Find opportunities to talk about what traits are common among the most successful people at your company. Be candid about your expectations for working from home, general work hours, being available on weekends, attending company outings, etc. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to talk about what part of your company’s culture needs improvement. Paint an accurate picture so a new employee isn’t blindsided when he or she gets on board.

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