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We’ve all had the feeling of walking into a room of people and instantly getting the sense that we don’t belong. Sometimes after a few minutes this passes, but often it lingers. If it’s a party or a one off gathering, it’s usually not a problem, but if that’s how you feel every day when you go to work, you are never going to be at your best.

Over the past few years, the importance of culture fit has been widely acknowledged and discussed. While most recruiters recognise  its role, there is a lack of consensus on how to evaluate it. In research conducted by ThriveMap, 96% of HR professionals said cultural fit was vital to consider in the recruitment process but only 11% were satisfied with how they were hiring for it. Culture fit as an excuse for hiring discrimination is a major problem. 77% of hiring managers were basing their hiring decisions on gut feel alone – merely considering whether they liked the candidate – rather than considering any objective measures.

But how do you ensure recruits are a good cultural fit for your organisation, particularly if you are hiring remotely and only meeting candidates virtually? This blog post explores how hiring managers can evaluate culture fit fairly in any situation. It will look at:

  •       What is culture fit at work?
  •       Why is hiring for culture fit important?
  •       How to make culture fit an objective measure
  •       How to let candidates discover your culture
  •       How to help managers evaluate culture fit fairly
  •       Culture fit when hiring remotely

What is culture fit at work?

Culture fit in this context is about how well an employee will align with the values, working practices and beliefs of an organisation. What it boils down to is will they complement or supplement the way their colleagues like to work and will they feel comfortable with the values and beliefs of the company.

Culture fit is not about personality and whether you like a person. What you need to assess is how well a candidate will fit in with the working style and environment they will be potentially joining.

Why is hiring for culture fit important?

Feeling comfortable and in tune with your environment matters. It’s hugely beneficial for employee wellbeing and engagement, reducing costs and increasing productivity. When employees were asked why they quit their jobs, 60% cited a hostile environment, not feeling at home[1].

In a survey last year, ThriveMap asked 1,000 employees to rate their productivity in their current job and whether they felt like they were a good fit for their company’s culture. Those that said that they were a good fit rated their productivity as 7.18 out of 10. Those that said that they were not a good fit rated their productivity at just 5.29 out of 10. This is a startling 36% lower and represents a significant difference in performance. Culture fit clearly makes a significant difference, but how can you measure it?

How to make ‘cultural fit’ an objective measure

To measure culture fit, you need to define what your culture is. This goes beyond stated aspirational company values and involves examining how teams work in practice. This means finding elements that can be measured and compared, such as usual mode of communication, management styles and learning preferences. In large organisations, while there may be some values that are universal, the culture between departments is likely to vary, depending on the nature of the work they are doing, so it’s important to assess this on a team by team basis.

Once this is complete, a clear picture of the type of person who would fit into the team you are hiring for can be formed. For example, in technical teams some developers prefer to work remotely, others in an office environment, some prefer pair programming, others don’t. Questions and tasks can be devised to be included in the interview process, to discover how closely each candidate matches the culture of the team they are potentially joining.

How to let candidates discover your culture

Recruitment is a two-way process – while companies are searching for the best talent, candidates are searching for business they want to work for and can identify with their values. A strong brand that conveys what your organisation stands for and what it’s like to work there receive 50% more applications[2].

Companies are increasingly turning to social media to communicate their brand presence. A positive presence in platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will create a positive first impression in candidates. 79% of candidates use social media as part of their search for a new job and rate it as the most useful resource available to them[3].

A strong employer brand is even more important when hiring remotely. An organisation’s online presence is likely to be how candidates first discover them and needs to provide a window into how they work in practice. Including employee perspectives, that highlight how they work and interact with the organisation can provide an invaluable window into the company culture.

How to help managers evaluate culture fit fairly

Once you have a clear idea of the culture of your organisation, you can build a recruitment process that evaluates it effectively. This process should be:

Consistent – The process should be exactly the same for each candidate.
Specific – The key criteria should be related to what is really required to perform the role effectively and not based on generalities and nice to haves.
Robust – The process must stand up to scrutiny and provide clear reasons based on evidence–why a candidate is right or not for the role.
Fair – Each candidate must be judged on their ability to perform the particular role they are applying for, rather than any irrelevant characteristics or preconceptions.

As mentioned earlier, cultural fit is about judging whether a candidate will thrive within the specific work environment they are going into, and not whether an individual has shared interests with you. While culture fit is important, the candidate also needs to have the right skills, experience, and desire to do the job. Any effective recruitment process must test all these things and indicate who performs best in all these areas.

Pre-hire assessments can be an effective way to objectively measure how well a candidate can do the job they are applying for, especially if this is based on real life scenarios. Devising these assessments with those that they will be working with will ensure they are realistic and also give a benchmark of what they are looking for in a new recruit. In these, it is also possible to build in questions to test how the candidate likes to work, providing an effective measure on how well they will fit in with the rest of the team.

Two significant advantages to using an online assessment is that it can be completed remotely and also anonymously. The assessment results will give a clear indication if the candidate is suitable for the role, meaning only the best applicants move on to the next stage of the process. This reduces the amount of time and money wasted on seeing those that may meet your criteria on paper, but not in practice.

There are known to be 175 cognitive biases that influence our behaviour.  We all have them, and no amount of training can eliminate them completely. What is important is to realise that they exist and to take steps to limit their influence when recruiting a new member of staff. In a process that just involves interviewing candidates this can be very difficult. 90% of hiring managers make a hiring decision in the first 30 minutes and just 31% of managers feel they get enough information on a candidate ahead of the interview. An online test taken anonymously can effectively help to limit these biases and allow candidates to be judged fairly.

Culture fit when hiring remotely

Remote working is on the rise and only likely to grow, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic. Finding candidates who are the right culture fit is vital for those working outside a traditional office environment. These employees can easily feel isolated and detached from the rest of the organisation, especially if they have different working preferences and routines to their colleagues. Assessing how a new candidate will cope working in a virtual team as part of the recruitment process will highlight if they are likely to be compatible with working alone for long periods of time. Assessing cultural fit when hiring is as much about clearly communicating what life is really like within your culture as it is measuring it in an objective way.




Christopher Platts is CEO of ThriveMap, a leading provider of personalised pre-hire assessment software for volume hiring. A former recruiter, Chris has experienced the problems of relying purely on intuition when making hiring decisions. ThriveMap’s approach is to create realistic pre-hire assessments that take candidates through a day in the life experience of a job to help companies hire more authentically. Before devoting time to ThriveMap, Chris founded TalentRocket, a culture-driven recruitment marketplace which helped hundreds of organisations to promote their unique company cultures.

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