Culture Fit: How It Helps Avoiding Bad Hires?

Volodymyr Bilyk
30 September 2021

Culture fit is one of the critical tools to explore and compare a candidate’s worldview, the way he perceives your organization, its vision, and organizational values compared with his own. 

As such, it is critical in an effective hiring process and subsequent employee engagement. However, this tool requires a self-aware approach to avoid unintentional hidden bias and provide the actual value of a successful hire (instead of handling costly hiring mistakes).

This article breaks down what culture fit means and how to handle its toughest challenges.

What is Culture Fit?

what is culture fit

Culture fit is one of the key tools in keeping the company’s collective cohesive. It aims at determining how well a person can fit into an organization and how it will benefit the rest of the collective. 

Unlike company culture that provides a throughline that keeps it all together, culture fit supercharges moving parts. 

That’s what makes culture fit assessment meaningful.

  • On the one hand, it gives an understanding of how two parties can navigate towards each other. For example, whether candidates share specific company values.
  • On the other hand, it provides a sort of critique on company culture, its presentation, and the candidate’s perception. The very same reactions can give you enough feedback to assess what works and what doesn’t.

But there’s a catch.

Why Does Culture Fit Matters?

Culture fit is a bit of a nebulous concept that requires insight into HR psychology to get it working for your benefit.

On the surface, it is an assortment of factors determining whether a candidate’s personal culture resonates and correlates with the company culture. As such, in practical terms, it explores the candidate’s soft skills and personal motivation.

  • The noble goal is to understand whether the company will be the right place for the candidate to realize his potential. 
  • The real goal is to inspect the candidate’s psychological profile to define whether he will blend in comfortably into the collective and productively contribute to it.

But that’s on the surface level. Looking deeper, culture fit as a concept is less about “fitting” and more about “adapting.”

The thing – full force culture fit is technically impossible. People are different, thus expecting instant culture fit according to strict criteria is pointless. 

However, it is much more reasonable to assess their ability to adapt and grow into the company. That’s what culture fit is all about. 

  • Because of that, effective culture fit assessment aims at exploring whether a candidate “got the tools” to get on board, adapt and develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the company.
  • In addition, the goal is to understand whether a candidate can adapt on his own or needs more guidance to get through. The latter is crucial for onboarding optimization.

How Does Culture Fit Assessment Affect Recruitment?

what are effective culture fit assessment techniques

Culture fit assessment is usually split into several stages.

  • The initial assessment takes place during the interview stages. The main focus is on the candidate’s goals, motivation, and soft skills in comparison with hard skills and technical expertise. 
  • This information helps to understand whether the candidate “resonates” with the company in general terms.

In a way, this assessment is part bingo, part exploratory interview. 

  • The so-called bingo part is the selection of mandatory traits and features. For example, the company is looking for candidates who want career growth and focus on self-improvement. As a result, the candidates who express or emphasize such things get “extra points” during the consideration. 
  • However, the bingo part is bias-prone. Because of that, it serves more like a roadmap addendum to an Ideal Candidate Profile.

The exploratory interview is where the real action takes place.

  • The goal is to find out what really matters for the candidate. The common topics of interest are: what drives him to succeed, why he wants to work for your company, how he sees his development in the organization.

Usually, this part of an interview takes the form of a bunch of open-ended questions. But there is a catch. Open-ended questions don’t provide impressive or informative answers. 

  • The thing is questions like “please describe your vision of an ideal work environment?” are generic. As such, chances are you might get what you want to hear kind of answer. Or a nondescript cookie-cutter answer that gives you nothing. 
  • Because of that, it is crucial to wrap culture fit assessments around functional fit topics. This approach will smooth the “data gathering” and provide maximum valuable information in a relevant context.

The next stage of CFA takes place during onboarding and the initial months of employment. 

  • The goal is to observe how well the new hire adapts to the collective. The other goal is to approximate how the rest of the employees react to a new colleague. 
  • It is crucial to continue background culture fit assessment for new hires. It might help with course correction if the new hire falls behind and needs a helping hand.

Why Culture Fit Can Be Challenging?

The big challenge of the culture fit is that while it is benevolent in concept, it may become malevolent in practice.

  • The thing is, culture fit assessment is often seen as grading system variation – the bingo thing from the previous section. 

As such, strict culture fit criteria don’t make sense as they leave too much information and pave the way for hidden bias

  • People are different. You can’t put them on the grid and expect the math to check out. 

Because of that, it is vital to treat culture fit assessment as an information-gathering tool and not bias crutch behind the gimmick.

In conclusion

Culture fit is one of the HR and recruitment concepts that seem simple on the surface. However, it is incredibly complex if you look closer. But it doesn’t mean it is completely impenetrable. 

If you need to optimize your culture fit assessment workflows or fine-tune company culture presentation – our consultants can help you out.