How can I Determine Culture Fit?

Interviewing for a leadership position is tricky. Everyone you’re going to talk to is going to have the requisite hard skills required for the job. Otherwise, they wouldn’t make it through the vetting process. The key to finding the right person for a senior role at the company is their soft skills. Determining this is not as easy as looking at someone’s work experience and education. You can’t encapsulate how someone leads from a resume or a single interview. The question you need to answer is how can I determine culture fit.

Culture fit is often the primary reason an executive doesn’t work out in a new company. This is unfortunate for both the executive and the company. The first step to ensure you know a candidate has the right culture fit is to understand your culture. This sounds like a no-brainer, but unless you have consciously discussed and aligned to the principles that drive your company, your culture has defined you rather than you defining it.

According to Investopedia, “Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company’s culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction and every other aspect of operations.”

The key takeaway here is that you can’t expect a new hire to integrate into your culture if you don’t know what it is. The first step to ensure a good fit is to understand how your company’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors drive your decision making and go-to-market approach.

Assuming you’re ahead of your competitors and have a solid understanding of your culture, the next step is to go beyond the traditional interview.

Microsoft, Google and other Silicon Valley companies started the practice of asking non-traditional questions during interviews to understand how people think. And while some of these logic questions can be very difficult, the idea of asking questions that require a candidate to explain their rationale is a great way to gain an understanding of how they approach their work. These best questions don’t have a perfect answer, the point is to uncover how they would go about it.

A second way to understand if a candidate is a good culture fit is to provide them with a scenario that they need to address when they come in for the interview. Think of this as a case study like those in graduate schools. Make sure they have enough time to prepare their response and include other department heads in this part of the process to ask questions and probe deeper. This is a great way to see their leadership skills in action.

The third way to determine culture fit is through an assessment. At Sheer Velocity we take a two phased approach to this. In conjunction with an industrial psychologist we developed our own proprietary DNA Cultural Alignment. This is given to both the hiring manager and the candidates to determine fit. We also partner with Hogan Assessments to provide a variety of industry leading assessments both pre and post hire.

To learn more, send us a note and let us know how we can help.