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What does hiring for culture fit mean?


Meredith Stack


Recruiters and managers often say finding candidates who will be a “good fit” for the company is their top priority, and rightfully so. One Leadership IQ survey determined that 89 percent of new hire failures were due to personality or attitude issues rather than lack of skill, proving that culture fit is an important measure of hiring success.

More than a third of recruiters now say culture fit is most likely to influence their hiring decisions, according to a 2018 survey by Jobvite. However, how they assess culture fit is unclear.

Determining culture fit through an interview and resume screen alone can be nearly impossible. Asking a few behavioral questions and looking at experience may provide a picture of a candidate’s abilities and past experience, but it won’t tell you how well they will adapt to a changing environment, collaborate with team members, or problem-solve in a crisis.

To compound the difficulties with measuring culture fit through traditional methods, people define culture differently. Everyone carries their own biases and perceptions about what the company culture is, and what characteristics define it. In many cases, every decision-maker in the hiring process will have their own idea of what a ‘good fit’ candidate looks like, which leads to random decisions and poor hiring outcomes.

So what steps can you take to define ‘good fit’ means, and then how can you find people who fit the bill?

Define your culture.

To accurately define your corporate culture, you need to synthesize data from different sources and account for varied perspectives.

  1. Identify the values and behaviors that embody your workplace culture. This doesn’t just mean reviewing the company mission and values – though that’s part of it. You talk to executives, managers, and employees about what they think define the company culture; and review employee engagement surveys to see what they love about the work. Is it the camaraderie? The opportunity for growth? The chance to tackle complex problems in a fast-paced setting? These are all factors that define who your company is, and what traits will make candidates a good fit.
  2. Profile your culture warriors. Every company has employees who set the cultural tone of the workplace. If you are wondering how to identify the culture warriors, think of those who rally the team on good days and bad, tap into the mental vibe of the workplace, and define what makes the company great through their own behavior and celebration of others. Look at them as your cultural high performers, and figure out what makes them tick. If you have used assessments in the past, review their results (or have them take your current assessment) to see what traits and characteristics emerge.

Quantify fit through assessments.

While assessing for culture fit can certainly involve a feeling, it’s best to balance gut feeling with quantitative data. Assessments provide information on behaviors that can’t be uncovered in an interview, and they eliminate the bias that each interviewer brings to the decision-making process.

  1. Build a custom hiring profile. Assessment vendors help you develop a tailored hiring profile that defines the personality and cognitive traits that are required to thrive in your organization. Hiring profiles serve as a consistent measuring stick against which to compare all candidates.
  2. Rely on role-specific tests. Your corporate culture may be consistent, but every job and team will have its own demands, quirks, and traits that drive success. For example, data analysts may be task-oriented and rapid problem-solvers, while salespeople are sociable, optimistic, and assertive. Customizing the profile to the job will ensure new hires fit the role, the company, and the culture.
  3. Save reports for future hiring. Periodically review your past assessments to validate that new hires, based on the culture fit profile, are working out -- or to tweak the profile if it’s coming up short. The more assessments you conduct and save, the more accurate your results will be.

The process of defining your culture in measurable terms will take time, but pre-hire tests can ease the burden. Assessments define what “good fit” means and then help you identify which candidates fit the bill. This gives you the data you need to make the best hiring decisions – and to defend your choice to other decision-makers.

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