Cultural fit - the right pair of shoes for the job?

Recruitment methods have seen a significant change over the years and certainly within the last ten or so years.

With the explosion of social media, companies have had to overhaul their methods of recruiting to meet the pace that social media brings. Couple that with the current economic environment, and with unemployment at an all time low, and you have a candidate led job market.

If you are a company that has yet to develop a strong employer brand, then you are likely to be having to work even harder to attract candidates, interview and onboard them.

And even then, we are in the world of counter offers, with companies concentrating their efforts on hanging onto their talent, or savy candidates negotiating hard to get the best package.

Does this soul-destroying moment sound familiar?

Imagine this: You’ve done all the difficult work and you’ve finally recruited your ideal candidate.

However, after a few weeks, things aren’t quite what you thought they would be. You are not getting what you had hoped for in this person.

You matched them to your requirements on the role profile; the right skills, the right amount and level of experience. They performed well at the interview when they met the team. And yet here you are with someone who just isn’t quite right.

And let’s for a moment look at the cost of all this; the cost of advertising the role, the time it has taken for you and the team to find this person, and not to mention the lost opportunities of not having anyone in the post.

So what has gone wrong?

Well assuming they aren’t a Jekyll & Hyde character, who acted differently in the job interview to how they actually are on a day to day basis, then very often the problem is cultural fit.

If this is the case is someone who doesn’t seem in tune with the rest of the team. They may work at a different pace, or use a different style of language. What may seem very obvious to the team in ways of working, behaviour and the ability to deliver what is required, will be a real challenge to your new employee, if they are not aligned to your company’s culture.

  Team meeting | Cultural fit and recruitment | 2 The Point

Culture is an intangible force

Within a workplace, it is company culture that provides a working environment that binds people together. It is made up of many things: the way people dress, behave to their peers and other teams, how meetings are run, what types of people policies there are, how quickly decisions are made and who makes key decisions, what is rewarded at the company and what is condoned.

All of these things help to create a culture where people, who are aligned in their values, attitudes and behaviours, can flourish and perform at their best. In addition, people who are culturally aligned, will achieve far higher job satisfaction and will stay with you far longer.

How do you prevent a cultural mismatch?

You need a key shift in thinking, away from the traditional skill-set and qualifications that you ask of candidates, to something that is around the softer aspects of the role and around cultural fit.

Bringing in a team with first class honour degrees from a redbrick university, won’t necessarily bring you a group who can quickly engage with key people across the company, or who can navigate their way through complex processes with ease.

Ten years of experience might be valuable but someone who is comfortable working in the specific environment that you are recruiting for, may be far more valuable.

So your priority for your recruitment process is far less around core skills and instead, much more around whether they will ‘fit’ with the company culture.

And the reason for taking skills as a secondary requirement, is that many skills can be taught on the job. But teaching someone to be more collaborative or to change a behaviour, when they are set in their own style of working, is far more tricky.

Walking in different shoes | Cultural fit and recruitment | 2 The Point

Five ways to help you move towards a cultural fit style recruitment

1. State and publish what the company really values in its employees and how this translates in to your company culture. There may be some stated values and behaviours that have been developed over time, or it may be something that’s much more implied. For example, it may be the characteristics of individuals that makes aspects of their behaviour or attitude really chime with the culture of what is expected and rewarded. If the company really values someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, then finding someone who has a strong track record in similar environments will be really important. Is your company one that sees collaborative working as a key driver to success? If so, then bringing someone on board who is more of a individualist will be problematic.

2. If you are finding it hard to identify what these cultural behaviours and attitudes are, take a look at your star performers. Who are the employees who really shine in terms of getting work done? What is it that they do that makes their work exceptional? If you were to clone them, what would be the key qualities that you would want replicated? Are they the ones who truly put the customer first in all they do? Or do they generate new and creative ideas? Or perhaps they firmly believe that their team’s development is key to their continual success? Whatever the reasons, your top performers will be fully aligned to the culture of your company and they will understand how to operate successfully.

3. Make sure all of those involved in the recruitment process understand the cultural characteristics that are important to the role. The company’s culture leads certain behaviours and attitudes that creates the alignment you want so be clear to your recruiters, and agencies, if you use them, as well as managers who are interviewing, what exactly the alignment looks like. Here are some questions that can help you to probe around the cultural fit for candidates.

  • What type of culture do you thrive in?
  • What values are you drawn to and what’s your ideal workplace?
  • How would you describe our culture based on what you’ve seen? Is this something that works for you?
  • What best practices would you bring with you from another organisation? Do you see yourself being able to implement these best practices in our environment?  
  • Tell me about a time when you worked with/for an organisation where you felt you were not a strong fit, culturally. Why was it a bad fit?

4. You can also ask more in depth questions around behaviour and working practices that support your company’s culture. If you want to explore collaboration, then a question around examples of where your candidates have worked, both collaboratively and on their own, and which they preferred and why, can help.

5. Finally, show candidates around your office. Get them talking to other employees and watch them closely to see how they respond. Get feedback from others and push to get feedback about cultural fit, the questions the candidates themselves asked and how comfortable they seemed.

Need help?

If you want help with shaping your company’s culture, using cultural fit with your recruitment, contact me at or 07773 342084.

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