Reasons to Hire for Culture Fit Over Skill Set

When you recruit new talent, chances are you have a very specific job description in mind and are seeking an employee that bears the skillset to get that job done. But what if it comes down to one candidate who seems to fit your workplace culture but lacks some of the skills needed for the position—and another candidate who is a perfect match on paper but just doesn’t seem to gel?

Although there are good reasons to support both cases, the candidate who fits in your workplace culture can be taught the skills needed for the job and will have a higher learning curve because they have happier in their environment. This isn’t a terrible dilemma to have, so how do you choose? Here’s how.

What Is Culture Fit?

Culture is a company’s mission, vision, and values, and how these concepts play in the day-to-day operations. Cubicles, offices, or open floor plan? Do employees have flex-time? Can they take time off for volunteer efforts or their children’s activities? Is the manager’s office door always open? These are all aspects of workplace culture. Culture fit describes the way employees naturally adopt organizational practices, values, and mores.

As a hiring manager or the owner of a company, defining and hiring those that fit within the culture you are adopting in your corporation from the start will increase productivity, creativity, morale, and sales. But, it’s also important to remember that each employee has their own personalities. If your office is a collaborative space, but the candidate is an introvert, don’t dismiss them as a potential hire out of hand. They will have different strengths that can fit into the culture of the company you are trying to build.

Culture Fit and the Learning Curve

If you are training employees who are already a good culture fit, chances are you “speak their language,” and can teach in an engaging way. For instance, if your company is technology-forward and hires an early adopter, that employee might respond well to online training videos or gamification. If your culture is highly collaborative, new employees may learn better in groups while working on whiteboards, where teams brainstorm solutions and practice the appropriate skills.

It’s difficult to put a timeline on how fast you can get an employee up to speed, but employees who do not fit in with a company’s culture may struggle with how to apply their skills successfully. Because most employees come from previous experiences, they should be trained for the processes you have in place. If the culture fit isn’t there initially, it could also be difficult to train them to adopt the processes you have in place.

Employees Who Are a Good Culture Fit Stick Around

The average cost to hire an employee is $4,129, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. But some older reports say recruiting and training could cost as much as 50 to 75 percent of an employee’s annual salary.

It’s been often written that employees who are a good culture fit show greater job satisfaction and—perhaps as a result—remain with the organization longer. Employees that stick around save time and money and the longer they are with you, the more loyal they become. Working with people who share our values and vision makes for a better office environment and promotes a healthier workspace.

How to Hire for Culture Fit without Discriminating

Most of us want to work with people we like—but be cautious that “culture fit” doesn’t mean hiring people who think, look, and act exactly like others in the company. Diversity can be an important part of a company’s culture.

If a company is going to evolve, improve, and even disrupt its industry hiring managers should look for people who provide a culture fit while, at the same time, promote innovation.  The ideal hire will make a “culture contribution,” thriving within the established culture and also imbuing the workplace with a fresh perspective, while rapidly assimilating the skills necessary for the job.

Photo Credit: midwest.communications Flickr via Compfight cc

How To Hire the Right Applicant Through All The Noise

It doesn’t matter how good a candidate looks on paper (or screen), what happens in the interview makes a bigger impact. We want to know how it feels to interact with these paper applicants to get a real feel of who they are and how they’ll work with others. That’s why the interview is often the tipping point for applicants.

And because we’re human, it’s natural to click with people who can instantly connect with others (and usually this happens more quickly with extroverts who are comfortable talking to pretty much anybody). Introverts who usually are nervous—and perhaps whose sentences don’t come out quite right—can get overlooked. Even if they’re the most qualified for the job.

One study done by UCLA (based on its own MBA students) showed that most people considered extroverts—those who stated they “liked to have people around [them]”—were considered better work contributors, while introverts—those who felt tense more often—were assumed to not contribute much. The long-term study showed that the extroverts actually contributed less than anticipated while the introverts contributed quite a bit more. So those applicants who stand out more in the interview may often be less effective than they make you believe—especially when it comes to a team setting.

Frankly, it’s hard to distinguish good “gut” feelings that arise from having an easy conversation with an applicant. Here are five questions to ask yourself about every applicant to make sure you’re choosing the right applicant—not just the most outgoing:

1. Is the candidate just nervous? Or is this applicant a socially awkward person who will make team members uncomfortable to work with? I think one of the most important things you can do to determine this is to get the applicant comfortable and relaxed. Offer the applicant a bottle of water; make sure the seating is comfortable. Then start off the conversation (note I said, “conversation” not interview) by asking some questions that aren’t related to the job or its function. Smile and make sure they know you’re interested in them as people, not just job fillers. After the interview, check references so you can learn how the applicant really functions in a workplace setting. Also, you can check out their profiles on social media to learn even more.

2. Is the position better suited for an introvert or extrovert? Let’s face it: Some jobs are more suited for different personalities. I think of developers as more introverted because they focus on writing code for long stretches. However, that doesn’t mean that someone who is extroverted can’t do the job. In the same vein, just because someone is more introverted, it doesn’t mean they can’t talk well with others. It just might take them some time to warm up. Consider the position but give yourself wiggle room.

3. Is the applicant a team player? Of course you want to hire someone who has the skills necessary to do the job, but you can never underestimate the power of teamwork. Being an effective member of a team trumps any individual work. How does the applicant refer to previous work? Does s(he) take all the credit and say “I did this” or does s(he) say “we” when referring to previously accomplished work? “Teamwork . . . is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

4. What kind of personality will complement the existing team? Really think about the people you have on the team already. Do you have a lot of the same type of personalities? Where do you see holes that need to be filled? If you have a team full of introverts, an extrovert might be your choice. “…the only way to create a team that’s worth more than the sum of its individual contributors is to select members on the basis of personality, soft skills, and values.” Which begs another question: Is this person also a good culture fit?

5. What is the applicant’s skill set? Skills tests don’t care whether people are extroverts or introverts; they tell you if the applicant has the right skills. That’s why they’re a great idea so you can look past all the noise to find out which applicants really know their stuff. You’ll still need to consider other factors, of course, but this is a great way to evaluate for skills.

“Extraverts and introverts each bring unique gifts to the workplace.” Remember, it’s about adding a contributing member to your team; rarely is an employee’s work a solo effort. These questions can help you keep it all in perspective when you need help choosing the right balance for your team.


Image: bigstock

When Sizing Up Employees, Don’t Forget Culture Fit

Over half of employees who voluntarily leave their jobs do so within a year of hire. Although some amount of turnover is inevitable, a level this high suggests that employers are collectively overlooking something important. Enter culture fit. Although long recognized as an influential factor in employee retention, culture is still relatively infrequently assessed during selection. Culture can seem abstract at first, but HR professionals need not shy away from it. Culture can (and should) be understood, measured, and incorporated in the hiring process to help maximize selection effectiveness.

What Is Culture?

Organizational culture is really quite similar to societal culture: it is the set of values, norms, and behaviors that are shared across individuals within an organization. It is that intangible “something” that defines an organization, influencing everything from marketing and leadership activities down to how people dress and speak to one another.

Why Should We Care?

Culture is a large, although frequently overlooked, portion of the hiring success equation. Assessing skills and abilities can indicate whether a person can perform a job’s tasks in any organization, but assessing culture fit can indicate whether a person is likely to be successful at your organization. An individual with an eye for detail and strong interpersonal skills could likely fulfill customer service duties for any company. If that individual is lively and thrives in a dynamic environment, though, she will probably be unsatisfied in such a role in a company whose culture is centered around formality and following traditional protocol. Understanding your culture and considering culture fit during the hiring process, then, can improve the probability that new hires will be happy in your company and stick around for the long term.

What Should HR Professionals Do?

Hiring for culture fit requires some self-reflection. Those in charge of the hiring process should thoughtfully identify the things that set their organization apart from others. Look around and ask yourself, “What motivates and drives our employees?” What is it that sets your company apart from your competitors and really defines who you are? Is it a sense of creativity, innovation, and being on the cutting edge? Is it a sense of social responsibility and a concern for the greater good? Is it tradition and pride in reliability and quality? In order to get the best understanding of your unique culture, be sure to reach out to employees at all the levels of the organization. After all, the people make the culture.

After you have a clear picture of your organizational culture, determining culture fit is really as easy as determining skill or ability fit. Modern assessments can measure a vast array of competencies critical to culture fit, from integrity to competitiveness. Once you have narrowed your candidate pool to those with the necessary skills, you can use assessments to pinpoint the candidates who can best fit your culture. Interviews, too, can be targeted to assessing aspects of culture fit, as can less frequently used options such as realistic job previews.

Whatever the method, the goal of assessing culture fit is the same for all HR professionals: understanding company culture and ensuring that selection efforts are aligned with that culture to maximize hiring success. Employees are more apt to feel satisfied in a culture where they feel they are a good fit, and employers are likely to see greater commitment and better retention of their employees. When it comes to hiring, culture really is king.

About the Author: Dr. Katherine A. Sliter works as a Talent Measurement Consultant at Performance Assessment Network (pan), helping businesses to understand how to hire and retain top talent. She holds a Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and has taught, practiced, and published in the areas of assessment design, data analysis, and applied psychometrics.

photo credit: Infusionsoft via photopin cc

Job Auditions: Secret to Successful Hires?

By Matt Mullenweg, Founder, Automattic.

Hiring potential employees on a trial basis can help you quickly discover things about them that you can’t learn from resumes, interviews or reference checks. Here’s how it works in our organization.

Automattic (the fuel behind employs more than 225 people who live all over the world, in 190 different cities. Our headquarters office is in San Francisco, and it operates similar to a coworking space. Employees who live in the Bay Area can choose to work from that location if they wish. However, most of our employees choose to work from other sites.

For us, this arrangement makes sense — our business is based on open source software, which is a decentralized product. However, outsiders have been skeptical as we’ve moved forward with our distributed work model.

At the outset they said, “That works great when you have 10 or 15 employees, but when you reach a team of 30, it falls apart.” Eventually we passed 30 employees, and we started hearing that the magic number is 100. Then people said Dunbar’s number — 150 — would be the point at which it didn’t work. Yet we keep blowing past these thresholds. We hired more than 100 people in 2013.

What’s special about us? We don’t hire the way most companies do — both in our mindset and our actions.

Mindset: We Think Differently About Work

In many businesses, if someone shows up in the morning and he isn’t drunk, he doesn’t sleep at his desk and he’s dressed nicely, it’s assumed that he’s working. But none of that takes into account what he’s actually creating during the day — and that’s really what matters.

Many people create great things without having to follow established workplace norms. Our organization measures work based on outputs. I don’t care what hours you work. I don’t care if you sleep late, or if you pick a child up from school in the afternoon. It’s all about what you produce.

This arrangement isn’t for everyone. But a lot of people like the autonomy we offer, and that’s important. So we’ve arrived at an unorthodox hiring system that serves our needs perfectly.

Behavior: We Hire by Audition

Before we hire anyone, they go through a trial process first, on contract. They can do the work at night or over the weekend, so they don’t have to leave their current job in the meantime. We pay a standard rate of $25 an hour, regardless of whether a job candidate wants to be an engineer or the chief financial officer.

During the trials, applicants perform actual work. If you’re applying to work in customer support, you’ll answer trouble tickets. If you’re an engineer, you’ll address engineering problems. If you’re a designer, you’ll design.

Seeing Is Believing

There’s nothing like being in the trenches with someone — working with them day by day. It tells you something you can’t learn from resumes, interviews or reference checks.

At the end of the trial, everyone involved has a great sense of whether they want to work together going forward. And, yes, that means everyone — it’s a mutual tryout. Some candidates decide we’re not the right fit for them. For others, the experience solidifies their commitment.

The Payoffs of Careful Hiring

Overall, we end up hiring about 40% of the people who try out with us. It’s a huge time commitment — coordinating the short-term work our applicants perform — but it leads to extremely low turnover. In the past eight years, only about 10 people have left the company, and we’ve let go of another 25 or 30. Those are great numbers in today’s work environment, so it’s a system we plan to keep utilizing.

Today, I spend at least a third of my time on hiring. And even though it’s a small part of our process, I still look at every resume the company receives, and I conduct the final interview with everyone who joins us.

It’s worth the effort. Nothing has the impact of putting the right people around the table. The aphorism is true: You can’t manage your way out of a bad team. We’ve done experiments to find the best way to hire based on our unique organizational structure. I encourage your business to do the same.

252691_10150856254811651_681132284_n(About the Author: Matt Mullenweg is the founder of Automattic, the company behind the open-source blogging platform,, as well as Akismet, Gravatar, VaultPress, IntenseDebate, Polldaddy and more. Additionally, Matt is a principal and founder of Audrey Capital, an investment and research company. Connect with him on Facebook or on Twitter.

(Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from a post at Brazen Life, with permission. It is based on a talk by the author at the December 2013 Lean Startup Conference. It originally appeared on Harvard Business Review. For more information, visit the Insight Center on Talent and the New World of Hiring. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credits: Wikipedia (feature) and Kevin Abosch (author)

Hiring Great Talent: How Do You Decide? #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Want details from this week’s #TChat Events? See the Storify slideshow and resource links and more in the #TChat Recap: “Hiring: A Winner Every Time.”)

Think back for a moment.

What factors tend to drive your organization’s hiring decisions? Impressive candidate credentials? Hiring manager preference? Behavioral interviews? Gut instinct?

Now tell me — how successful has that method been?

Studies indicate that hiring by intuition fails as much as 75% of the time — so clearly there’s no easy answer. However, a more deliberate, structured approach can significantly improve the odds of finding a long-term fit.

What approach works best? That’s the focus of our conversation this week at #TChat Events. Leading the way are two HR professionals who understand the value of a solid hiring methodology: Chris Mursau, Vice President at Topgrading, and Jean Lynn, VP of HR at Home Instead Senior Care.

Sneak Peek: Smart Ways to Hire Better Talent

To frame this week’s discussion, I briefly spoke with Chris in a G+ hangout — where we talked about why it’s so tough for companies to find and keep the talent they need…

This topic touches all of us in the world of work, so we hope you’ll join the #TChat crowd this week and add your perspective to the conversation!

#TChat Events: Smart Ways to Hire Better Talent


Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

#TChat Radio — Wed, Feb 19 — 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Chris Mursau and Jean Lynn about how companies can be more effective at hiring top performers. Tune-in LIVE online this Wednesday!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Feb 19 7pmET / 4pmPT Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and our guests will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community.

Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as Dr. Nancy Rubin moderates a dynamic live chat focused on these related questions:

Q1:  How do we identify and attract high-performing employees?
Q2:  What processes and technologies impact quality of hire?
Q3:  Hiring via “gut” feel alone usually fails, so why do we keep doing it?
Q4:  Do reference checks really influence a candidate’s viability?
Q5:  How should employers communicate their culture to candidates?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, and in our new TalentCulture G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!