Evaluating Cultural Fit
Savvy hiring officials are looking for more than great job skills, qualifications, education, and experience. They wish to employ applicants that are the best “cultural fit” for their organizations. They seek candidates whose past behaviors reflect belief systems, values and attitudes that are consistent with what they will experience in their new surroundings. They believe that determining cultural fit up front will improve learning curves, workplace harmony, morale, teamwork, efficiency, and the tenure of valuable talent. Several best practices have emerged as effective tools in evaluating cultural fit that forward-looking organizations would do well to take heed of.
First, the organization must make an accurate assessment of its existing culture. What are the current behaviors shared in their workplace? These are the rules for working together that exist in every workplace that are generally neither codified nor discussed… they just ARE. Next, the company has hopefully given thought to the culture they are attempting to “shape” going forward pursuant to their organizational goals. Cultures are ever-changing and growing – hopefully in productive directions – and farsighted employers seek out job candidates who can help take them where they are headed.
Once you have determined who you are and where you are headed, you must adopt a set of tools that will reliably assess where a candidate stands relative to your cultural targets. The best predictor of how someone will act in the future is how they behaved in similar situations in the past. Carefully contrived behaviorally based interview questions, when executed properly by trained interviewers, can yield this sort of information. They elicit responses rooted in actual past work experience versus responses as to how the candidate MIGHT handle a hypothetical situation that he/she may never have actually dealt with. A good way to get the most out of this tactic is to involve a healthy mix of future coworkers - trained in the use of behavioral interviewing – in the formal selection process.
There are many other ways to size up proper cultural fit. The most recent generation of psychological assessment tools can reliably predict how much of a struggle a job candidate will have working comfortably and effectively in your environment. These assessments shed light on the candidate’s beliefs and values which, after all, are the underpinnings of human behavior. Used in conjunction with behaviorally-based interviewing, these can be very powerful tools, indeed. Often they suggest productive areas to probe during follow-up interviews. Yet another great tool – especially for assessing professional and managerial candidates – is a well-run assessment center. These centers typically run strong job candidates through numerous “simulated” work situations, including in-basket exercises and role-playing activities where participants actually “show” rather than “tell” how they handle typical work challenges.