Did you know the most qualified person for a job is rarely the best candidate for a job? Sure, the person may have the best technical skills and expertise, but if they do not fit in to the company or team culture, they are not going to be successful. Employees that are aligned to a company culture are significantly more productive than those that are not. Which means that someone who has 70% of the skills to do a job, will outperform someone who is 100% perfect if that person is not aligned to the company culture. This is also why research has shown up to 89% of attrition can be attributed to culture fit. So how can you assess for culture fit to increase the chances of hiring a superstar for your team?
Be honest about the team environment
If you want to assess for culture fit, the first thing you need to do is look at the existing culture and communicate it authentically. If you go and look at the company values section of most large firms’ official website, they seem like the best places to work in the world. Go compare that with the reviews left by their employees on Glassdoor. They are very rarely aligned. Even institutes like ‘great places to work’ show employee engagement scores at least 5% lower than the companies own official data. So, you need to be authentic about what your team culture truly is. Do not talk about flexible working if no one in your team was allowed to do this until there was a global pandemic and management are now trying to bring folks back to the office full time! By trying to show anything except your authentic self, you are going to attract people who are aligned to a culture that does not exist. This is going to result in misalignment and attrition.
What is your management style?
If you are hiring someone to work for you, they need to be aligned to your management style. If you are a horrible micro-manager, you need to be clear about that up front. If you want to be copied into every email, and updated on everything as it happens, that is OK. If it is truly who you are, you cannot change that although it is going to hurt your ability to lead long term. But you need to articulate this in the interview and understand how the candidate has previously been managed. If the potential hire is used to having a high degree of autonomy, and only checks in once every month or quarter to provide an update, they are not going to be successful working for you. Likewise, if you are completely hands off with your team, the applicant that checks with their boss before doing every task is going to drive you insane. So be honest about your approach to management and ensure it is aligned to your potential hires preferred management style.
As a leader, do you delegate authority? Some people do, others refuse to. If you are used to letting your team take the initiative and you trust them to make the right decision, then whoever you hire needs to be able to demonstrate they can work in this way. If you are in the opposite camp and the idea of a team member doing something without your permission causes you to panic, then you need to make sure they are ok with that too. The easiest way to do this is to ask them to show you where they have taken the initiative to solve a problem without being asked to do so in a previous role. Depending on your outlook, the answer will tell you all you need to know.
How formal are you?
Some people are very formal and professional in the workplace and others are more relaxed. There is a reason why a lot of people from large corporate backgrounds fail at startups. It is the same reason that a large proportion of people from startups fail in large corporate firms. Imagine your company spends the day in jeans and t-shirts, sitting on bean bag chairs and refers to everyone by random nicknames. Do you think that person who wears formal business attire, who has a complex filing system for their desk and refers to everyone as Mr or Mrs xxx is going to fit in to the team?
How do people interact?
How do the people within your team interact? Are they direct and assertive? Indirect and passive? If everyone, sits quietly and does their work for the whole day, someone who is loud and talkative will likely not fit in well. Pay attention to how the candidate communicates. If you are unsure, you could invite the potential candidate to a team lunch or some other event to see how they interact with the team.
The other thing to consider is how your team respond to mistakes. Do they blame each other and throw each other under the bus? Do they sweep mistakes under the rug and try to hide them? Do they admit to the mistake and ask for help? Someone who tries to hide their mistakes will not perform well in a team that likes to openly discuss what went wrong and how to learn from it. Ask your potential hire what they do when they make a mistake, then follow up by asking what they do when a teammate makes an error.
Finally, you should consider the approach your team has to time management. Does everyone have to be at their desk by 0900 or does everyone come in at a slightly different time every day? Do the team take exactly 30 or 60 minutes for lunch, or does it vary? Does everyone leave at 5pm exactly or does everyone work until 8pm every night? All teams have different expectations around this. Some do not pay attention to the hours spent working, but instead put the value on the productivity and quality of the work. Others do not measure the output of the work, but instead the time spent at the desk. If all of your team stay until 8pm every night and the new person leaves at 5pm every day, that is not going to end well. So find out their typical working pattern at previous firms.
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