The importance of culture-based recruitment for strong company culture.

If you want to build and maintain strong company culture, you must start by recruiting and selecting candidates who will share the organisation’s beliefs and thrive in that culture. But what hiring practices ensure a great cultural fit? And how to avoid the major drawbacks?

What are practical steps to hire for values?

1. Translate values into behaviours

You need to understand the cultural DNA of your organisation. Describe your company’s values and behaviours that form the core of your culture. Sometimes it is even valuable to define specific values-based behaviours for a given role or group.

2. Develop interview questions for each of those values and behaviours

Draft questions that ask the applicant to give specific examples of past behaviour you can link to your organisation’s core values. For instance, if your organisation values initiative and proactive team behaviour, you could ask, “Can you give me an example of an issue outside of your direct span of control that affected team performance and how you stepped in to address it?”

3. Design the interview process

Consider conducting the skills and values part of an interview by different interviewers or at another time to ensure the values part will get the attention it deserves. Make sure not to start talking about the company culture yourself. First, listen to what they have to say about their experiences and beliefs. This tactic will reveal more candid responses to help determine whether or not they are a good fit for the organisation. It may be worthwhile to involve two or even three interviewers to gauge the core values and beliefs. Different people will see and hear other things. These varied perspectives will give a clearer understanding of the candidate.

4. Use best practices during the interview

Use the STAR acronym to collect all relevant information: situation, task, action and result. Make sure to ask for the learning they derived from it. In addition, ask what impression the candidate made on all the people they interacted with. For example, the ‘Nice Guy’ test as explained by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. At Zappos, the recruiter asks the shuttle driver who drives the candidates to their offices how they were treated and listens for values alignment in the questions candidates ask. Try to really notice the kind of questions they’re asking and think about the values underlying them.

5. Decide how strict you will be

Every decision to hire is based on an assessment of a mix of job requirements. Cognitive ability, personality, skills, attitude and cultural fit. In a context where there is a pressing need to fill a position, you should agree beforehand on the importance of the perceived cultural fit.

“My advice would be to do yourself and the candidate a favour and be quite strict on cultural fit.”

The biggest downside of hiring for cultural fit is that it limits diversity

It is human for recruiters to – at least unconsciously – select those most like themselves. Take, for instance, introverted versus extraverted people.

Today we make room for a remarkably narrow range of personality styles. We’re told that to be great is to be bold; to be happy is to be sociable. We see ourselves as a nation of extraverts. – Susan Cain

But if you have a very outgoing company culture, does that imply that someone who isn’t very extroverted will not feel happy in your organisation? After all, you don’t want to risk employees forming cliques at work by only hiring perfect matches.

Protecting company culture starts with hiring people that will reinforce the culture

Think about how candidates might fit into your company culture and how they can add to it. And to what extent they proved capable to adapt to a new culture while staying true to themselves.

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