Whether we know it or not, we spend a lot of time "fitting in" or deciding if we fit in. Those around us are also judging if we fit in. At various stages throughout our school years, socially and our workplaces, we make these judgments. Hiring managers attempt to assess our fit to the job and the organization, and we in turn, should also assess our fit to that organization.
Workplace culture fit has been touted as possibly more important than skill. Ever heard the phrase "hire for culture, train for skill"? While both are important, it’s often the cultural fit that gets left out of the hiring equation. Hiring the right person for our environment (skill and culture) can reduce the overall cost of the hiring process by reducing turnover and the wasted time and training of someone who didn’t make it because he didn’t fit in. Saving your employees from having to cover while you find another candidate reduces their stress, as well.
If you’re looking for a new job, making sure you will thrive in that environment will offer you more of an opportunity to succeed and be happy with the place in which you spend a large portion of your life.
What is workplace culture and how do we hire for it and how do we suss out a company’s culture to decide if we’ll fit in?
The culture of a workplace is made up of values, beliefs, attitudes and behavior shared by the people who work together. It’s the behavior that results when a group arrives at a consensus about working together. Most times, these are unspoken, unwritten rules of the game, so to speak. We’re probably not even fully conscious that we’ve developed a culture. But in order to hire for it, you need to figure out what it is. While the old saw "I’ll know it when I see it" may be true to an extent, it’s not always reliable. Are you more buttoned up, old school corporate culture? More business casual, both in dress and attitude? Or are you start-up wild and crazy?
I.T. hiring expert and management consultant Johanna Rothman gives us questions we can explore during the interview process to help determine if a candidate will be a good fit:
1. Tell me about your greatest successes? What caused your success? Probe for the reasons behind the success. Knowing if the candidate works best in a team-oriented, collaborative environment, or a more individual-contributor independent environment will help you decide if she will fit in.
2. Tell me about your greatest challenges, and what caused them? This should encourage the candidate to talk about roadblocks he encountered and how the culture either helped or hindered him.
3. What type of environment do you need to work in to be most successful? Candidates will reveal their needs for things like work tools, privacy or flexibility in order to work successfully.
4. What is important for you to have if we made you an offer? Vacation, benefits, office location, computers, phones, etc. are all part of the bargain. Some candidates place more importance on availability of training, for instance; and managers might want to know they have the freedom to select their own team.
In general, behavioral interviewing is going to get you closer to the information you need to determine the cultural fit of a candidate.
If you’re the one being interviewed by a company, what can you do to figure out the culture? Paying attention to what’s going on around you while you’re there can tell you a lot.
How do people relate to one another? What’s the vibe between your interviewer and the receptionist when he comes out to greet you? How do the members of the panel interviewing you behave toward one another? Do they interrupt each other?
Ask the interviewer to describe the company’s culture. What she chooses to tell you can be revealing. How she tells you - the words she chooses and body language – may tell you even more. Are they consistent with the words being spoken? Compare your preferred style of working with what is being described. Do they match?
Ask for a tour. What your interviewer chooses to show you is probably what the company feels is important and its best-selling points. This will also give you another opportunity to see how employees relate to one another; and see how casual or formal the atmosphere is.
Inquire about promotional opportunities, training, etc. Ask how many people have held this job in the last 5 years. If your interviewer is also the hiring manager, ask about her style of supervision. Is it loose and hands-off when you need more feedback? Or does she come off as a micromanager and you work better in a less restrained fashion?
The savvy candidate can even turn Rothman’s questions around and discover what the interviewer and the company sees as important to them.
For a company looking to hire, skill is important, but cultural fit may seal the deal. From the candidate’s viewpoint, money and benefits are important, but working where you’re comfortable, believe in the mission and feel welcomed is equally as important to your success.