Evaluating cultural fit is a crucial type of candidate’s assessment in recruiting.

Hiring for cultural fit: finding a candidate that shares your company values

Congruence with your organisation’s culture is one of the key recruiting factors

Recruiting is a multi-faceted process that embraces a great variety of factors and requirements the applicant should meet to get hired. As an HR manager, you usually start with browsing CVs, and by doing so, you are able to get an idea about each candidate’s main professional experience, activities, tasks he or she was responsible for, technical skills, language competences. However, many studies, including the one stated in Harvard Business Review, suggest that the reliability of resume reading as a screening process is akin to tossing a coin. Also because the applicant’s values and corporate culture expectations can only be revealed during one-on-one interviews.

In fact, hiring solely based on job requirements and experience relevance is usually not enough. You also need to focus on selecting the candidates that fit best within your company’s culture – which is a concept somewhat difficult to define. In a nutshell, a corporate culture is a set of generally unspoken and unwritten rules for working together. Basically, it is a “personality” of an enterprise – a totality of its social and psychological environment, values, workplace behaviours, beliefs, norms, mission, and the language a company complies with. Consequently, cultural fit is the degree to which a given employee connects with that culture.

Assessing cultural fit means looking beyond the person’s qualifications to determine the candidate’s attitudes, ethics, values, and see if they mesh with your company culture. Organisational psychology expert Adrian Furnham defined cultural fit in an organisation as “congruence between the norms and values of the organisation and those of a person”. A Leadership IQ research stated that almost 50% of new hires fail in the first 18 months because of a bad fit.

That is why being an HR manager you want to conduct strategic hiring and take onboard only the people whose beliefs and behaviour correlate with your company culture. So, here come the so-called cultural fit interview questions and assessments that are fundamental for singling out such candidates.

As a matter of fact, technological advancements significantly facilitate recruiters’ in high volumes recruiting and on initial headhunting stages: artificial intelligence and top talent acquisition solutions (like those offered by Jobrapido) are great at pre-selecting the most suitable targeted candidates. That saves a lot of HR’s time which they should rather dedicate to a more intricate recruiting part where human touch is basically indispensable – in evaluating soft skills and cultural fit during the interviews.

How to do a cultural fit interview

A good way to start is to discover a workplace environment in which a candidate was able to put forth his/her best work – this will give an idea about which type of culture allows the person to thrive and bring the best results. To learn more about an applicant’s past accomplishments, ask the following questions:

  • In what type of work environment do you think you are most successful?
  • What were the most positive and the most negative aspects of your previous work environment? Why? How did it affect your work?
  • What is the single most important factor that you expect to find in your next work environment that will make you feel satisfied and happy at work?
  • Describe a challenging situation you have recently faced at work, and how you dealt with it.

Consider inserting a lot of open-ended questions about the qualities that are highly valuable for your company. Focus on the values side, go in-depth to understand the vision of the candidate, his/her expectations, professional habits, work style. Some questions you may ask are:

  • What do you value most at work? Do you prefer formal or informal culture in the office?
  • Do you often help your co-workers? Have you ever become a good friend with any of your colleagues at your previous workplace? Is it a good practice to be close with your co-workers, or is it unprofessional?
  • From your perspective, is it OK to take work home with you? Could it be a good idea to work remotely?

You may also ask about the passions/hobbies of the candidate and the amount of time he/she dedicates to it. Be curious about the applicant’s idea of a perfect working day – it may reveal a lot in terms of the person’s work style and professional habits.

To be totally aligned and happy at work, the person also needs to match with the manager that will supervise him. In fact, the executive’s managerial style can be a critical factor when evaluating a cultural fit. “Subordinate needs vary from those requiring heavy direction and supervision to those wanting none”. Managerial relationships are important for engagement, performance and work satisfaction levels, so you must evaluate how successful the candidate has been working under various management styles. Here are some examples of questions that will help you with that:

  • How have you worked best with your previous managers?
  • From where you stand, what does constitute an effective manager role?
  • How can a manager motivate you? Describe the management style that inspires you to perform better

The most important thing that should not slip your mind – you need to listen carefully. Allow the candidate to lead the conversation at some point: it will give you a valuable insight into the personality traits and the abilities of being a self-starter. During the interview closing part, pay attention to the questions the candidate asks – assess if the interviewee is actually curious to know more about the business and the role. A person being inquiring and scrupulous is usually a positive sign.

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