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Updated Jul 02, 2024

Hiring for Cultural Fit? Here’s What to Look For

It’s important to consider how candidates will add to your company culture. Learn how to hire for cultural fit.

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Skye Schooley, Business Operations Insider and Senior Lead Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Cultural fit is a concept that can be hard to define, but everyone knows when it’s missing. Imagine a company founder who believes that an open office plan and team projects promote creativity and progress, but whose employees are introverts who prefer privacy. Or think about the ambitious employee stuck in an organization that offers no employee training programs, tuition reimbursement or room for advancement.

At its core, cultural fit means that employees’ beliefs and behaviors are in alignment with their employer’s core values and company culture. Finding employees that add to your company culture is important; as such, cultural fit should play a key role in your recruiting and hiring process.

What is company culture?

Your company culture is a combination of organizational factors; these factors include your mission statement, goals, workplace environment, management styles, and employee expectations and behaviors. Your company culture is unique to your organization. While a company’s culture can be directed by business leaders and management, the employees you hire will also have an impact. When it is done strategically, you can create a great company culture that attracts the type of workers you want to employ.

Did You Know?Did you know
There are plenty of tools that can help you establish and reinforce company culture. The best HR software offers entire modules dedicated to employee engagement, morale and company culture; check out our best picks if you’re looking for software that can improve your workplace culture.

How do you hire for cultural fit?

It can be tough to identify whether a job applicant matches your company culture if you don’t have the proper processes in place. When recruiting, follow these five steps to narrow down which candidates are the right fit for your company culture.

1. Define your company culture.

The first step in hiring for cultural fit is to define your company culture. You must be able to articulate what values, norms and practices define your business. As a hiring consultant for small businesses, Rebecca Barnes-Hogg, founder and CEO of YOLO Insights, asks her clients to list the top three or four behaviors critical for success in their organizations. “These behaviors are their company culture translated to daily operations.”

2. Convey your company culture in your hiring materials.

Once your company culture is defined, it should be clearly expressed in all of your communication materials; this includes your website and recruiting tools — especially job postings. Your job ads must reflect your business culture and connect back to your core values.

“You can do this by emphasizing some of the qualitative things you want in a candidate,” said Ian Cluroe, marketing director at Vialto Partners. “So, in addition to looking for X years of experience, say that you’re looking for someone who’s innovative, entrepreneurial or customer-centric — whatever characteristics reflect your culture.”

Need help writing an effective job description that conveys your company culture? Check out our article on how to write better job descriptions.

3. Train your hiring staff on how to discuss company culture with applicants.

According to Cluroe, any interviewers in your organization must have a good grasp of your business culture and refer to it when hiring new employees. It is not sufficient to ask candidates if they will fit into the corporate culture; this is because “a smart candidate will know what you want to hear and give you the right answer,” he said.

“Many companies talk about their culture in glowing terms during the interview,” said Mark Babbitt, founder and CEO of YouTern and WordIQ, a company that helps interns with their futures. “In fact, the culture segment of the interview has become a large portion of the ‘sales’ process when speaking with top candidates. We learned that we need to hire people who genuinely care about the people they work with and for, and not hire those who show up to work every day just to collect a paycheck.”

The best candidates know this and are prepared with answers to the most common interview questions that take on the culture topic, Babbitt noted. “Unfortunately, that means both the interview questions and answers are both canned — perhaps even disingenuous.”

To avoid this, provide your hiring staff with training courses and resources on how to successfully discuss company culture honestly and genuinely.

FYIDid you know
The best HR outsourcing services often provide some level of employee training and development.

4. Give job candidates an immersive look at your company culture.

According to Babbitt, another way to successfully discuss company culture with job candidates is to provide a look at your culture in real time. Walk the candidate around the office. Let them meet key team members. Show them where the real work happens. Then, when you’re back in the interview room, ask one question: “What were you thinking as we walked through the office today?”

“If you get a more specific response rather than a canned answer, then there’s a good chance you’ve found a culture fit,” Babbitt said.

You can also assess candidates for cultural fit by asking them to take personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the DiSC assessment. Also, arrange for them to meet with team members from various teams and departments in your organization.

5. Factor DEI into your hiring process.

When you are hiring for cultural fit, it is important that you take diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into consideration. Creating an inclusive company culture that promotes workplace diversity and inclusion is beneficial for you and your employees. Develop an inclusive recruitment strategy that grants equal opportunity to every candidate.

Avoid confusing personal similarities with cultural fit, said Pavneet Uppal, managing partner of the Phoenix office of Fisher Phillips, a law firm that represents employers in labor and employment matters.

“When cultural fit is used to hire a homogenous workforce, the resulting lack of diversity will often manifest in poor creativity and undermine a company’s competitiveness,” Uppal said. “Focusing on hiring based on shared background or experiences may also lead to discriminatory practices.” [Learn how to comply with equal employment opportunity laws.]

Refusing to hire someone because of an alleged lack of cultural fit will not save an employer from legal liability. Asking candidates about personal issues — such as age, citizenship status, health, family history or ethnic background — is never justifiable on the basis of cultural fit, Uppal stressed.

The end goal is to identify and hire the very best candidates whose skills and attributes match the organization’s core values. Cluroe said this objective is achievable when organizations have a “culture that’s based on positive values that are open enough to enable a diverse selection of people to embody them in their own way.”

Why is cultural fit important?

Company culture is important to employees. The best candidates may not even apply to a job if they get the sense the company culture doesn’t suit their preferences. It’s not just about compensation for these employees; they also want to work for a company where they feel at home.

Many employers also understand the importance of hiring for cultural fit. People who fit well into their organization often express greater job satisfaction, employee engagement and productivity.

“We can teach someone to do a job. We can’t teach someone to love the way we operate,” Lauren Kolbe, founder of Kolbeco, said. “An employee who is not aligned with the culture and is not committed to living it can wreak havoc pretty quickly, even if they bring a great deal of skill and experience to their craft.” [The best time and attendance software can help all new hires understand the expectations for employees.]

Cultural fit can also play a role in employee retention. Employees who fit in well with their company culture are more likely to remain with that organization for a longer period. Every organization should strive to maintain a low employee turnover rate; the cost of replacing an employee can be one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.

Did You Know?Did you know
This is the formula to calculate employee turnover: (Number of employee departures ÷ Average number of employees) x 100 = Turnover rate.

Hiring for a cultural fit can build stronger teams

When you recruit and hire new employees, considering how they will fit into the existing dynamics and workflows of your team matters. New hires that are a cultural fit for the way you do things and the way your team interacts can expedite the onboarding process; in addition, it can also boost morale and ultimately drive productivity. Hiring for cultural fit isn’t just a matter of finding someone you like personally, though. Consider the tips above to make better hiring decisions that improve your entire team and drive results.

Tejas Vemparala and Shannon Gausepohl contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

author image
Skye Schooley, Business Operations Insider and Senior Lead Analyst
Skye Schooley is a business expert with a passion for all things human resources and digital marketing. She's spent 10 years working with clients on employee recruitment and customer acquisition, ensuring companies and small business owners are equipped with the information they need to find the right talent and market their services. In recent years, Schooley has largely focused on analyzing HR software products and other human resources solutions to lead businesses to the right tools for managing personnel responsibilities and maintaining strong company cultures. Schooley, who holds a degree in business communications, excels at breaking down complex topics into reader-friendly guides and enjoys interviewing business consultants for new insights. Her work has appeared in a variety of formats, including long-form videos, YouTube Shorts and newsletter segments.
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