The Candidate Looks Great on Paper, But Does She Fit Your Company Culture?

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A few decades ago, a candidate’s ability to flawlessly execute position-specific tasks held primary influence over most hiring decisions. If an applicant could do the work and do it well, and her track record could back this up, she was welcomed aboard. But as recruiters and hiring managers have learned, a hiring policy based strictly on aptitude can come at a high cost. Almost every hiring manager can tell a story about a candidate who radiated competence, but later seemed unable to work within the company structure or contribute effectively to team projects. Ironically, some of the most highly qualified candidates crash and burn in the worst way when attitude and cultural adjustment problems come to a head.

So we’re getting the message: hiring decisions should account for attitude as well as aptitude. Candidates should be carefully screened for their ability to fit into the social fabric of the workplace, and they should demonstrate a set of values and tendencies that match those of the company and its leadership. If a workplace is driven, competitive and fast paced, a collaborative peacemaker won’t thrive there. Likewise, a competitive, perfectionist loner won’t fit in very well with a congenial workplace that encourages innovation and risk-taking. All of these traits offer potential paths to productivity, but they don’t necessarily match. A candidate should be driven to succeed, certainly, but only by methods that can find purchase and thrive in your particular workplace culture.

Four Steps to Cultural Recruiting

So how can you make cultural recruiting work for you? Here are four straightforward ways to build the intangible elements of attitude into your selection process.

1. Understand Your Workplace Culture

The first step to matching candidate with culture is recognizing what that means. If you had to describe your company culture to an outsider, could you do it? Once you can identify the kind of workplace you’re trying to staff, you’ll have a better grasp of the kinds of personality types most likely to fit in there.

2. Pre-Onboarding Exposure

If possible, expose candidates to actual projects and working teams engaged in the kinds of processes that make your company run. Often, this exposure leads to self-selection. Candidates may not know what kind of workplace culture attracts or repels them until they see it in action.

3. Pipeline-Building, Internal Recruiting, and Referrals

The best way to find a candidate who thrives in your culture is to choose one who’s already doing so. Internal recruiting can be a sure fire way to remove attitude from the equation, since those who apply internally are probably 1) already finding success, and 2) content in their relationship with the company culture. Cast an internal net, and cast secondary nets by using your current employees to connect you with outside applicants. Social media can support this process.

4. Fit Testing 

Many companies are now relying on an application and interview process that includes specific tests for cultural fitness. If you choose one of these screening modules (an oral or written test with culturally targeted questions), make sure your module comes from a proven source and watch out for potential limitations in accuracy and reliability.

Contact the staffing experts at CSS to gain additional insight into the cultural aspects of the hiring process. We can help you find talented, appropriate candidates and build employee relationships based on mutual success.

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