Recruiting for Cultural Fit: What are the advantages for your project?August 23rd, 2022
[Editor's Note: this article was originally published in June 2019, and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness].
Whenever I meet a candidate, I always get a first impression. During the interview, as we casually let the conversation flow, I get to know them a little bit better. Sometimes, I think, “Damn, this person is a match made in heaven for this project!” More than a gut feeling that turns out to be right, it’s the outcome of my experience as Ambassador that shows me that there’s an alignment between the ethics and the values of one part and the culture of the other. When this takes place during an interview, I notice that that person ends up working for the client and the company ends up liking that employee. That’s why the knowledge about the company’s culture when taking into account the profile of the candidates is so decisive. We must combine both to achieve a good cultural fit.
But how to achieve a good cultural fit?
Before anything else, the priority of the Ambassadors is to identify the culture of the organization to which we are recruiting. It’s crucial to know its values, goals and practices, articulating this knowledge throughout the recruitment process. The Harvard Business Review, in a Katie Bouton’s article (founder and CEO of Koya Leadership Partners, with two decades of experience in HR) defines “cultural fit” as “the likelihood of someone reflecting and/or being able to adapt themselves to core beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of an organization”. These may look like volatile variables, but they are the cornerstones of the structure that constitute the organizations we are striving to elevate. During the interview, there’s a technical assessment of the candidate and we probe their profile and values – the finer details that will make the acculturation process more or less difficult. In an interview with the Society for Human Resource Management, Shanil Kaderali, executive VP of the Californian outsourcing company Pierpoint International, emphasizes that there are two characteristics commonly shared by top-ranked companies to work for: “they give priority to top recruitment talent and provide substantial funding for the recruitment department”.
The recruitment process is much more than paperwork. The more time we devote to each candidate, the more in-depth and thorough the selection becomes. Indeed, this is a process that requires flexibility from the Ambassador. We have to adapt ourselves to the candidate who’s sitting before us. At KWAN, everything stems from the openness and transparency with which we approach the candidates, it’s part of our DNA – that’s right, of our culture. We must explore what the candidate would like to achieve compared to what our clients have to offer. We always want to convey our own culture, but we don’t present ourselves as xeroxed copies to each candidate. Sensitivity is the most important thing when dosing all these factors. For instance, there are times when we’re more formal with candidates who appear to be more comfortable in that context, thus becoming a match with a more corporate client; with others, we are more laid back since it’s obvious that the candidate values this relaxed attitude, pointing out to a better match with a start up environment.
It’s a match! The candidate-client cultural fit is in harmony when this Holy Grail is attained: The person is identified with the company values, its culture, vision, product, project, daily experience, team. The company sees that person an element of the team, they fit into their social dynamics, and its attitude is also comfortable for the person. Win-win .
This doesn’t mean that the match is unique. We can combine the very same candidate with more than one company and vice versa. For instance: I feel good at KWAN. I identify myself with our daily life, the way people are treated and t he issues are tackled. The atmosphere is so relaxed that work colleagues become friends. In past professional relationships, I have had experiences where that match wasn’t that comfortable; and I have also felt good in a more corporate environment, where the way of treating people was quite formal. This proves that each candidate has different possibilities.
Reaching the Holy Grail isn’t just important to ensure a smooth integration. Ultimately, it’ll help the candidate to be happy when it comes to contributing and working for the organization. With this sense of belonging, the motivation to follow the team is greater, and so is the effort to achieve goals and learn faster, and the way one approaches the challenges ahead is more positive. A 2005 study conducted by the University of Iowa, in the field of Personnel Psychology, analyzed the consequences of the cultural fit at work and concluded that those who have a better match with the organization, team and supervisors, also have higher job satisfaction rates, they’re more likely to stay in the organization and also have a better performance.
That is why cultural fit must be a point of concern for all the elements involved in this matchmaking (candidates, company and recruiter). At worst, an inconsistent match can decrease retention levels. In my experience, it’s more likely that someone will want to leave their job because they don’t fit the team properly than because they don’t identify with the job or the task itself. Wanting to stay where we feel a bond is something natural – no one wants to grow roots where they don’t feel at home. When that happens, we don’t want to invest that much time on the job and we start to look for work in a different company. For the client, that implies the need for a greater talent pool, investing much more time (and money!) while searching for the ideal new candidate. To provide some figures, according to the Harvard Business Review and the Society for Human Resource Management, turnover due to a weak cultural match_may cost the organization 50-60% of the annual salary of the position to be filled. In addition to the costs of a failed recruitment, Brent Gleeson tells his experience on the importance of cultural fit and its impact on the motivation and performance of the candidate and team, all under the motto “Hire slow, fire fast” – adapted from his experience as Navy SEAL. (An interesting read for anyone looking to extend their insights on culture fit).
An effort has to be made to identify and define sought-after cultural traits and some sensitivity is required to identify the candidate whose symbiosis has higher chances of success. Always taking into account that not everyone is comfortable with an informal setting (~the one where you shoot Nerf Guns and share a dictionary full of affectionate dirty words~). Some candidates feel better in a more rigorous, quiet, relational environment that respects their personal bubble. And these differences are perfect.
Does cultural fit mean absence of diversity?
We aren’t all alike. The secret to a good team is precisely that. More and more, when selection time comes, the company must confront its future reality with the candidate.
They must ask themselves things like the following:
- “Do I imagine this person working with my team?”
- “How would the candidate react to my company’s approach?”
- "Do I already have someone with a personality and abilities too similar to this candidate?”
- “Do I need diversity or coherence?”
These issues must be carefully pondered. The same article found in Harvard Business Review emphasizes that one of the risks associated with recruitment based on cultural fit is candidate discrimination and lack of diversity. “It's important to understand that recruiting for culture fit doesn’t mean recruiting people who’re all the same. The values and attributes that make up an organization’s culture can and should be reflected in a workforce that’s properly diverse”.
There are, in fact, many advantages in building a team rich in diversity, whether in terms of nationality or including neurodiverse professionals. And diversity doesn't imply the absence of cultural fit.
The candidate must also assume an active role in this equation; they must show curiosity to learn as much as possible about their future work environment, they can’t be afraid to ask questions and extend their knowledge. You must try to find out as much as you can about the proposal so that you're sure when it’s time to make a decision and sign the contract. Nobody feels that comfortable with a Bye Felicia! after one week. That can be quite a blow to your self-esteem (and finances!), but, sometimes, it’s the only way out. And that’s why matchmaking exists: to avoid precisely that.
Recruiting for Cultural Fit: Final Considerations
Last but not least... the recruiter: the pivotal element in this operation. Mediation is in our hands. Sensitivity too. Speed dating isn’t an option here and, at the end of the day, everyone likes “long walks on the beach”. “They worked happily ever after”, that’s the story we all want to tell.
If Jay got Bey, then anything is possible: count on us to find the perfect match for your tech team! Talk to us and let's recruit for the cultural fit together.