In the world of hiring, you will hear phrases like, “The candidate wasn’t a good culture fit.” As a hiring manager, you might have even said this yourself. But how often is what makes a good culture fit challenged? Not often enough. Too often the term “culture fit” is used as a reason for not hiring someone, and it has become a crutch to hiring managers who can’t seem to explain why they just don’t see the person fitting in with the company. This is a big issue that is affecting all kinds of people, but in truth, it might not be the candidate’s fault.
Often what happens is that the term “culture fit” is confused with, “Would I hang out with this person outside of work?” Then that question is translated into, “Will I like working closely with them every day?” Both are valid questions, but the truth is that those questions don’t address what truly makes a candidate fit within the company culture.
The people you may have the most fun with outside of work or the most in common with may not actually make the best teammates. The opposite can also be true; someone you may never find yourself engaging with outside work could make the most reliable and competent co-worker. Unfortunately, great people are turned away because they were never actually asked questions in the interview process intended to determine the factors that will make a reliable, competent co-worker regardless of the hangout factor.
The core of determining a true culture fit is Value, Principle, and Mission alignment, or V.P.M. If a group of people is driven by the same basic V.P.M’s and have the same larger picture in mind, generally teams will function quite well because the V.P.M’s are bigger than any one person. If candidates are not asked questions to bring out examples of how they may or may not align with the company culture or V.P.M’s, then the manager isn’t able to evaluate their true fit.
Think back to school when you had to pick a group of people to complete a project with. The most successful groups were made up of all types of personalities and backgrounds, but all with the same agenda in mind: to create the best result. A group like this looks around at each other and puts aside obvious differences; they don’t think about whether they’ll be close friends afterward. A group like this assesses everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and plays to them accordingly. Most likely, if there was a need for one more person to be added to the group, they’d be picked based on the same core V.P.M as the rest of the group, not based on a feeling they get on whether they could see themselves being friends with that person. The same principle should be applied to hiring a new team member at work. In the work environment, the people you most want to be around are the ones who help you and the company you work for be better based on the strengths they bring to the table and if they use those strengths for the same mutual goal.
To find out whether someone truly fits the company culture, try reworking part of your interview process. Try adding specific questions that are directly related to the V.P.M’s of your company, or try changing your interview questions to ones that will require the candidate to answer in a way that reveals whether their thinking pattern fits the company principles. It should be less about the answer and more about how they think about the question and reach their conclusion. This will tell you how a person will do in your environment and how they will react in your specific environment.
The next time you’re asked why someone was or wasn’t a fit, you’ll be able to give a specific answer to which of the values, principles, or mission they did or did not align with and why. This will help you figure out just who would be a fit and what you’re really looking for in the next best fit!