Cultural Fit Assessment When Interviewing Candidates

Find the right job candidates by understanding cultural fit

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The environment in your workplace is made up of the values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and behaviors shared by employees in your organization, from management down to entry-level workers. This creates a culture that is unique to your business and workplace.

The most successful employees are ones who fit within an organization's existing workplace culture. Finding job candidates who are a good cultural fit is a key part of the interview process.

What Is Workplace Culture?

Workplace culture is the behavior that results when a group arrives at an understanding of how to work together. Culture manifests itself in an organization's:

  • Communication and language choices.
  • Decision making and priorities.
  • Symbols and messaging.
  • Stories and legends.
  • Practices for daily work and scheduling.
  • Level of formality or informality.
  • Focus on cooperation, teamwork, or competitiveness.
  • Treatment of customers.
  • Expectations of honesty, integrity, and achievement.

Though an organization's culture is impacted by the experiences each employee brings, it is especially influenced by the organization's founder, executives, and other managerial staff. Managers and executives set the strategic direction and expectations of their workplace. Their behavior is often emulated by the employees who work under them, and workers whose behavior match management's expectations are more likely to be promoted.

The rewards and recognition offered to employees, what is valued and reinforced, powerfully shapes an organization's culture. An employee who is a good cultural fit will work well within the environment and culture you have created and advance the interests of your business.

Determining Cultural Fit Through Job Interviews

A job interview allows you, as an employer, to assess how well candidates will fit into your existing work environment. This begins with a concrete assessment of their skills, experience, and intended work trajectory. But interviews should go beyond what you find on a resume.

In addition to exploring a candidate's work background, the questions asked during a job interview should assess cultural fit. How a candidate answers the questions can be a deciding factor in employee selection.

This sort of assessment can also happen in a behavioral interview. Discovering how candidates have approached a variety of work situations in the past tells you whether their work style and behavior are a strong match for your organization and whether they will be successful working with you and your team.

A successful candidate should exhibit both the necessary qualifications to perform the job and the essential fit needed to work effectively within the existing organization.

What Are Examples of Cultural Fit at Work?

Workplace culture plays out in the daily interactions of workers with their teammates, managers, subordinates, and customers.

For example:

  • Collaboration. If collaboration is integral to daily operations, an employee who works well on teams and appreciates the input of a variety of people is likely to work well in your organization. An employee who wants to work alone the majority of the time may not be a good cultural fit.
  • Independence. If your organization stresses employee empowerment and personal accountability, an employee who wants to be told what to do will not be a good cultural fit.
  • Control. A manager whose leadership style relies on command and control will not be a good match for employees who expect to have their input, opinions, and commitments solicited and carefully regarded.
  • Flexibility. If your business requires rigid work shift coverage or expects employees to participate in regular after-hours activities, candidates who need flexible hours or want to telecommute will not be a good fit.
  • Competitiveness. If your organization prioritizes sales through any means and encourages competition between employees to achieve higher results, employees who are less assertive or easily intimidated will not be a good cultural fit.
  • Formality. If you expect a high degree of professionalism in how employees dress and interact with clients, candidates who prefer a casual environment or informal communication will not be a good cultural fit.

Before you begin hiring, take time to identify the values and behaviors that create your workplace's culture. This includes analyzing your own behavior as well as that of your employees. Executives and managers shape workplace culture by modeling and rewarding the behaviors that they want to see in employees.

Once you understand what your business's cultural fit is, you will be able to hire employees who have the ability to succeed within your organization.