02 JUN, 2015

What Company Culture is NOT

A New York Times article from last week pointed out a disturbing effect of concentrating on hiring for fit with the company culture, where managers have been observed favoring people they want to play golf with rather than truly focusing on the aspects of a person that make them a good fit for the company and job at hand.

Hiring for cultural fit is not about hobbies, race, religion, sex, university background, or whether you can see yourself going to happy hours with the candidate in question. Here are some things it IS about:

Work Ethic: If your company is one that expects long hours and the job in question demands full concentration every moment, someone who is looking for a relaxed environment where they can have a lot of down time is probably not the best choice.

Work Style: If your company is big on collaboration, candidates who express the desire to work alone or display personality traits in the interview that show they may be socially awkward (beyond just normal nervousness) should be carefully scrutinized. The style of work at a startup or smaller company is also a lot different than it would be at a large corporation with many layers of hierarchy. A person who is used to being able to make decisions quickly and try new ideas might feel stifled in a large company where they need to get approvals and a have a more narrow scope of work. On the flip side, someone who has enjoyed working in larger organizations where they have a lot of support and direction at all times might feel lost in a more entrepreneurial environment.

Goals: It’s important to find out what the candidate is looking to get out of the job and her time at the company, and assess whether she will be able to achieve those goals. Deceiving someone into believing she will be able to move up within the ranks if you know that is unlikely will only lead to resentment and turnover.

Values: The candidate’s values should match up fairly well with those of your company. For example, if your company places a heavy importance on superior customer service, it’s imperative to hire people who can empathize with customers and possess a sense of urgency in getting their issues resolved.

Industry: Depending on the job and industry, it may be important to hire those that are interested in it. For example, if you work for a fitness-related company you might want to hire people who are interested in living active lifestyles so they can relate to your customers. A clothing designer will probably want employees who are passionate about fashion. Caring about the industry in which they work can seriously affect employee engagement for the better!

The X Factor: Zappos is well-known for hiring people who can “create fun and a little weirdness.” If your company has a personality like Zappos certainly does, then you’ll want to hire people whom you believe will fit into and contribute to that personality. Like any great ensemble cast, they will do so in different ways, so this should not be a way to ensure a homogenous population. It’s important to have candidates meet with at least two or three people they would be working with so they can get a feel for each other and you can get a few different opinions. It also gives the candidate a chance to assess potential co-workers and see if she’s comfortable with them.


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