Candidates; Are you blind to cultural fit?

There are two key areas why you’ll be rejected during the interview process.

  1. Cultural Fit
  2. Functional Fit

Candidate analysis of cultural fit seems to be at best left to the last minute and at worst – totally ignored. It should be one of your key concerns. So don’t ignore it. If you don’t assess it – be sure the interviewer will, and you don’t want to be blindsided.

Last week I met a client who was having difficulty in securing a new role. I asked her how many applications she’d made during the past 2 months. The answer was over 30. The interviews she’d achieved were two. The number of offers – zero. So those two interviews really did matter!

In the end, she was starting to doubt her approach. Good move! And in her case there were several areas she could have executed more effectively.

Today I want to discuss Cultural Fit.

What is Cultural Fit?

From the employers perspective; Cultural fit is the likelihood that a job candidate will be able to conform and adapt to the core values and collective behaviors that make up an organisation.

A recent survey by Hudson showed that 69% of professionals surveyed saw cultural fit as important.

Click here to read the survey.

What wasn’t reported was how well the professionals were able to execute the analysis of cultural fit during their job hunt.

So how do you stay on track to winning a role with the right cultural fit?

First off – being honest with yourself and your recruitment consultant is imperative. Try not to significantly modify or mask your values, drivers or motivators to fit with the target company culture. That approach isn’t sustainable.

89% of hiring failures are due to poor cultural fit. Click here to read more

Before you start your job search assemble a list of the cultural fit criteria that are important to you. There are a number of online tools to assist you – in addition to psychometrics such as HBDI, Myers Briggs, Birkman, Hogan, DiSC etc which are used by employment psychologists and recruiters to determine candidate style and fit along with other technical areas. If you have undertaken a test and have the results, review them.

When reviewing the reports, ask yourself questions like “What is my ideal work environment?”. “What type of management style do I prefer?”. “What type of product or service aligns to my own values, drivers and motivators?”. “What would excite and motivate me to be successful?”. “What type of person do I work well with?”.

You may wish to scorecard (rank or weight) the criteria according to their degree of importance to you. And then as you progress through the research and interview phases, assess each opportunity and its ability to deliver against your own cultural fit requirements.

Consider this additional list of questions when researching the company:

  • Vision (Look at their website and media coverage)
  • Values (Check out their website and media. Are they aligned with your own?)
  • Practices (Do they walk the talk? – look for examples)
  • People (Check out LinkedIn, etc and ask around)
  • Narrative / History (Where have they come from and what is their track?)
  • Environment / Place (If you like open plan and collaboration – is their office design and leadership style going to promote of hinder?)
  • What is the turnover rate for this position? (why did people leave – how did this position become available?)
  • Employee engagement? (Some companies do surveys)
  • Official job description? (use this to drill down on interaction, identify and ask questions around the softer skills)
  • Who will I be working with most. (You may wish to meet them. Research on LinkedIn and Facebook. Google the names)

Keep in mind you’re going to be spending at least 1/3 of your day with the organisation you’re joining. So it’s much better for you, your employer, and family and friends if you’re a happy camper! Be careful not to deviate significantly from your core criteria when asking the questions and recording results. This is intended to be an objective assessment across all opportunities.

What do employers think?

Employers know that candidates who are an appropriate cultural fit are more likely to remain at the hiring organization, thereby improving productivity while cutting down on churn and the costs associated with replacing employees. In some organizations, cultural fit is so important that a human resource management representative might recommend hiring a candidate who is a good cultural fit but lacks some of the necessary hard skills for a particular position. Skills can be trained. As a candidate you should be applying the same measures.

“Understanding what motivates people is one of the most critical levers to organisational success”

Simon Moylan, Executive General Manager, Talent Management, Asia Pacific, Hudson.

A survey by Allen Associates has found that cultural fit is more important to recruiters than skills. 47% of HR managers in the survey said that fitting with existing culture and teams was their top criteria when hiring whereas only 27% thought that experience was most important and 26% thought skills and qualifications were as important. Skills and experience can often be acquired or enhanced through training whereas personal attributes are much harder to change.

Some interview questions you may be asked:

  • Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team?
  • What role are you most likely to play in a team? Give an example.
  • Describe the management style that will bring out your best work and efforts
  • What are the characteristics exhibited by the best manager or teacher you have ever had?
  • What is your leadership style?
  • Describe the type of work environment in which you are most productive.
  • Is it wise to become close friends with other staff?
  • What were the most positive aspects of the last job you held?
  • What is the most important factor in your work environment for you to be successfully and happy?
  • How would your co-workers describe your work style and contributions in your former job?
  • Describe an occasion when you made a a customer or client pleased with the service you gave them?
  • How would people you have worked with describe their relationship with you?
    What would they like to see you do more of and less of?
  • How does a company encourage your willingness to go the extra mile, spend more time, and do what is needed to get the job done?

Summing up:

Cultural Fit is something you can research. But you also need to be clear about your own requirements and what matters most if you are to make an informed decision.

Every company, family and organization has a personality: their way of doing things, the values they appreciate (or don’t), their characteristics.

The thing is that cultural fit isn’t right or wrong, it’s just that people have different ways of working and doing things. The Position Description (PD) and the job ad wont necessarily describe these that well either – so research beyond the ad and the PD. Use the internet and your network to find out what’s below the waterline.

The trick is to find a company that sees things as closely as possible to the way you do, and get them to hire you.

My next article will deal with Functional Fit.

Follow Craig McAlpine and

Twitter: @MyCareerBrand #MyCareerBrand






Contact: Phone: +64 21 666 807, +64 9 5222802 e-mail: Craig McAlpine's Linked In profile: MISSION Working with Job Search Candidates to build their go-to-market strategy, develop powerful marketing collateral such as their CV, LinkedIn profile and social media presence, and ultimately to secure a new role that is not only rewarding but also assists them on their career journey. EXPERTISE Career Coaching - LinkedIn Training - LinkedIn Optimisation - Personal Branding - Job Hunt: Go to Market Strategy and Collateral - CV design and preparation - Interview skills INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE - Professional Services - Information Technology - Banking and Finance - Recruitment

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Posted in Cultural Fit

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