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Assessing for Cultural Fit: 3 Tips for Hiring Managers

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Posted by Darleen DeRosa March 10, 2016

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Have you ever hired someone who looked great on paper but turned out to be completely wrong for the job?

It’s a huge drain on your company’s time, resources and even morale. And it happens more often than you might realize.

Eighty percent of employers worldwide said hiring for cultural fit was a top priority, according to a survey recently quoted in the New York Times.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. We want to hire employees who will thrive within our company, but we don’t want to rely on snap judgments or sacrifice diversity.

If you’re struggling to walk that fine line in your hiring, here are three tips that can help.

1. Define Desired Behaviors and Traits

Unless your company has taken the time to define your culture, you won’t be able to properly assess candidates. Defining your culture goes beyond a mission statement.

It should address values, expectations and processes. For instance, take a look at how The Hershey Company talks about its corporate culture.

The company’s values include embracing diversity, seeking new approaches and striving for continuous improvement. It also emphasizes working as one team while accepting individual responsibility for results.

Given those values, the company would need to determine what traits are most important for employees to have. That may include someone who takes initiative, collaborates well and embraces new challenges.

2. Use A Variety of Assessment Tools

Most people would characterize themselves as hard workers, team players and problem solvers in an interview, but they may freeze in the face of a difficult situation. Being able to take charge and respond quickly to challenges is critical, especially if you’re hiring for a leadership position. That’s why it’s important to use other leadership assessment methods, such as personality tests, situational judgment tests and simulations. The data from these assessments will give you a more complete, data-driven picture of a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

3. Involve Your Team In the Assessment Process

Fitting into your company’s culture involves more than providing the right responses in an interview or demonstrating behavior the candidate thinks you’ll want to see.

Whenever possible, provide opportunities for the candidates to interact with your team. These interactions can be formal team interviews or informal conversations over lunch. Some companies even stage casual interactions and use them in their assessment process. The founders of startup company Zendesk knew they needed employees who would be candid, yet tactful, so they offered candidates a piece of salty Danish licorice to see how they would respond.

The “licorice test” may not be an appropriate assessment tactic for all companies, but it’s just one example of using an unconventional way when assessing cultural fit.

Building a strong culture starts with identifying and developing leaders with the right skills and characteristics. For more than a decade, we've helped companies improve their culture through executive assessments, leadership development and more. 

To learn more about our solutions for leadership development, browse our program guide or contact us today to talk about how we can develop a customized solution. 

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Topics: Identify And Develop Leaders, Leadership Development, culture fit, organizational culture

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