What it Means to Hire for Cultural Fit

Hiring for cultural fit

A few years ago, I hired an HR director for one of my clients, or should I say, I reluctantly hired an HR director. The personI found was perfect for the role, had all the right experience, knowledge, ability to achieve the desired results (had done this many times before), and possessed the ideal personality traits. So when I presented this candidate to the CEO, I said, I found a guy who fits the job description perfectly—he's a 100% match—I don't have one concern about his ability to execute. Then I told the CEO, that all being said, don't hire him. As you can imagine, the CEO looked at me like I was crazy. I explained to him that my concern was not in the candidate’s ability to do the job, but rather, my concern was how the rest of the CEO's executive team was going to get along with him or more accurately, how they would not.

You see, the candidate’s personality Traits profile was the exact opposite of the rest of the team he would be joining: 

  • The candidate was a Strategic, big picture thinker and decision maker, which is what the role called for. He was extroverted, amiable, quick to trust, liked to brainstorm ideas, and work as a team. His communication style was very open, friendly, and persuasive. 
  • The rest of the management team were Tactical, detail-oriented thinkers and decision makers. They were introverts: slow to trust and introspective. Their communication style was direct, factual, and serious.

Basically, the candidate was fast-paced, proactive, and results-oriented, and the rest of the management team took a more process-oriented and methodical approach to their work.

Because of these differences, the HR Director didn’t work out. Some may call this an issue of cultural fit.

The biggest differentiator between extroverts and introverts is the trust component (most people believe the biggest difference lays in communication and that extroverts are better communicators, but that is not always true; some of the best professional speakers are actually introverts). Picture the scene from Meet the Parents, when Robert De Niro’s character, Jack talks to Ben Stiller’s character, Greg about the Circle of Trust. 

Hiring for cultural fit

Jack shows Greg a diagram in which the family lays inside the circle and Jack lays WAY OUTSIDE the circle. This was the case with the HR Director who I suspected would never get inside the existing team’s circle of trust!

Despite my advice, the CEO assured me that hiring this candidate would not be a problem and hired him anyway. But, 30 days later, the CEO called me and told me how it wasn't working out; his management team "hated" this guy! The CEO stated that the management team felt he was a "cowboy" who moved to quickly, made decisions on things he didn't really know enough about, and talked way too much.

When I did the HR Director’s exit interview, he explained that he had tried to obtain information from the team, to brainstorm with them on ideas he wanted to implement, but that they wouldn’t share anything with him. Further, he said he was making decisions on things that were all part of his job description, which I confirmed was accurate.

As you can see, the management team and the new hire had two starkly different ways of thinking, making decisions, and communicating. They also had vastly different paces at which they got things done.

This is just one example, but a GREAT example, of the importance of hiring to make sure the candidate melds with your company culture. Other factors that contribute to cultural fit include formality of attire, general work environment (for example, cubes v. private offices), approach to change, and formality of office relationships. 

You will be more successful in hiring for cultural fit if you address these three factors with your existing work team and the new hire:

  1. How each person thinks and makes decisions
  2. What their social orientation is (people vs. things), and their resulting communication styles
  3. The pace at which they got things done

It's not important to have all people in your team align, but rather to have them understandand appreciate the differences. The team must be willing to make adjustments in their approach when interacting with a team member who has a different style than theirs.

Please respond and share with us how you bring new hires into your company's culture and your thoughts on this approach.  

About Excelsior:

Excelsior is a Human Capital Consultancy firm that helps companies and CEOs maximize their success by leveraging cutting edge behavioral research and proven management strategies to grow your organization by growing your people. Our job is to understand the objectives of your company, then architect and lead a comprehensive and sustainable talent strategy to assess, recruit, develop, manage and retain the people necessary for you to achieve your business objectives.

1. Strategic Human Capital Alignment

Our Strategic Human Capital Alignment Based on your strategic growth initiatives, we will utilize our proprietary tool, the Peak Performance ProfileTM (P3) to help you define what roles and individual results are necessary to achieve your corporate growth objectives in your desired timeframe.

2. Talent Assessment & Acquisition

Our Talent Assessment process helps you identify the specific strengths and weaknesses of your employees by benchmarking against the P3 created for their role in the Strategic Human Capital AlignmentOur Talent Acquisition process is effective for any role, in any market or industry and helps you to hire faster, hire better quality people and lower your overall hiring costs.

3. Leadership Development

Our Leadership Development initiatives provide formal training and coaching to help insure that your investment in Strategic Human Capital and Talent Assessment & Acquisition has a positive ROI. The end result is that your leadership team is keeping your people focused, productive, and happy, and in turn reducing turnover costs and increasing your profitability.

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photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/infusionsoft/4485024180/">Infusionsoft</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/infusionsoft/4443958478/">Infusionsoft</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>