When I ask leaders growing companies about their challenges, getting the right people in the right time is always on top of their list. However, unfortunately, most of them are repeating the same mistake when recruiting new employees: they look at the recruitment process as transactional and administrative. They are concerned with writing position descriptions, engaging with recruiters and sorting resumes. They hire by focusing on skills and then realise that something else is missing…  

Recruiting for success starts with deciding on and leading the company’s culture since the cultural fit is what’s holding the organisation together. Cultural fit is the probability that the new employee will be able to adapt to the core values, behave according to them and prosper within the new environment. 

Successful companies recruit for culture, not for numbers and specific tasks. Why? Simply because poor cultural fit results in turnover that costs the organisation between 50-60% of the employee’s annual salary (according to SHRM). Successful companies begin their recruitment process with culture and then plan in advance the workforce needs and structure, according to the organisational aims and strategy. Only then they should look at the transactional process of recruitment. 

The transactional part of recruitment is the least important in the process. Successful recruitment is based on selecting the right people, those with cultural fit. 

In one of my previous posts “6 steps to ensure you build a great culture for your start-up”, I provided tips on how to establish a strong culture that supports growth. In this post, I would like to focus on what it means to base the recruitment foundation on culture and values (how to find people with cultural fit). 

How to Recruit People with a Cultural Fit 

1.   Company culture– define and articulate the organisation’s values, goals and practices (“the way we do things here”). Once this is clear, not only to the executive team but to everyone in the organisation, recruiting for cultural fit becomes a much more comfortable and fun task. 

2.    Design the recruitment process around cultural fit– Yes, you do need to check skills, problem-solving and overall experience. Once you establish the relevant skills, the focus and effort of all those that are involved in the process should be in the culture. Remember, talented people can learn skills pretty quickly; changing people who have the right skills but are not a cultural match, is almost impossible. So, what do I mean by designing the process: 

a.    Verify skills– you can provide a task to complete (such as a problem to solve or develop), which doesn’t cost money, nor the time to the team. Only those who perform well are then interviewed. 

b.    Interviews– expose the candidate to at least 2-3 people from the organisation (preferably from different teams). No, not in a panel interview. Panel interviews are good to see how people present in front of a group. They are “show and tell”. You cannot dig into actual values and behaviours in panel interviews. 

c.    Assessments– some assessments (the most recommended is Saville Wave) look for a cultural match and predict future performance. You can get great information from these assessments, way beyond what you gain in interviews (especially when the interviewers haven’t had behavioural interviews training). 

d.    Reference check– questions such as “describe the culture that best fits the candidate”, “tell me what motivates and demotivate the candidate” can reveal a lot. 

3.   Interview for culture 

a.   Be transparent about the company’s culture– Each interviewer should describe the culture from her/his view. Although the company has one culture, each team member experiences it differently. Candidates must be exposed to different perspectives, so please don’t coordinate what the interviewers say about the start-up and its culture. 

b.  Cultural fit– Ask questions that reveal a general cultural fit, such as: 

  • What is the ideal culture for you? 
  • What is the environment in which you thrive?  
  • Tell me about the organisation you currently work in ?- What do you like there, what don’t you like there? 

c.    Values– Ask questions about the specific values of your company. For example, if one of the values is collaboration, ask the candidate about how she/he likes to work, ask them to provide an example of collaboration they have initiated, to tell you about a time when they didn’t collaborate and what they have learnt from it. 

d.    Probe– ask candidates beyond the answer they prepared at home to demonstrate how they deal with uncertainty, conflicting deadlines, changes of priorities, solving problems that require cross-teams’ collaboration. 

4.   Show the candidate around the office and watch their reaction 

5.    Collect all the information from the different interviewers, assessments and reference checks and determine the cultural fit. 

Recruiting with a focus on cultural fit means hiring those who will flourish in their roles, stay for long and be part of the company’s journey. You can teach people new skills and knowledge, but you can’t train them to love the way the company operates.