Recruiting for Cultural Fit

How do you define your ‘Company Culture’?

Most hiring managers say that ‘cultural fit’ is an important consideration when making candidate selection decisions. While companies often cite certain generic statements about their culture, the truth is that company culture is made up of the sub-cultures of the teams within the company. For example, an engineering team can have a very separate culture to the marketing or sales team. So, it is very important to consider the culture of the specific team that the candidate is applying to work with.

How do you define ‘Fit’?

In terms of your approach to identifying whether or not a new candidate will fit in with your team, which of the following statements do you agree most with?

  • A: If someone fits in here, they will get along well with existing staff.  We can tell fairly quickly by chatting with them over coffee or over drinks at the pub whether or not they are the right fit.
  • B: If someone fits in here, they will be like the missing piece of our jigsaw puzzle. Even though they may not hit it off with the existing staff right away, they will compliment the rest of the team’s work-styles.

While these options are not completely mutually exclusive, most hiring managers will lean one way or the other.  The ‘right’ answer depends on the objectives of the organisation and the role that the candidate is applying for.  If the goal is to perform well-defined tasks, work harmoniously and have fun, then ‘A’ is the best answer.  If instead the goal is to innovate and problem-solve, then ‘B’ is the best answer.

How do you recruit for the best Fit?

Researchers in team science have rigorously examined what the ‘right’ mix of team members might be, particularly for teams that need to innovate and problem solve. They have found that while technical expertise is important, other team member characteristics are critical for predicting whether or not a team will be high performing.

You may have noticed that one bad apple can spoil the bunch, but did you know research supports this idea in work teams? In fact, one disagreeable team member can explain 14% of the variability in how well teams perform. You may have gotten a sense that people tend to be better team players when they care about what happens to the team and its members. Research supports this as well. The concern facet of an individual’s psychological collectivism taps into whether or not an individual tends to be self-interested or have concern for the well-being of the teams they work with. Research indicates that the odds of being a top performing team are 57 times more likely for teams composed of members with a high concern for others.

These and other findings make it clear that for highly interdependent teams, the team-specific culture matters. Are you harnessing the power of this research to fill your organisation with people who are the best possible fit?

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