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Why you should measure culture fit at interview stage

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Companies spend a lot of time and money getting talent onboard — but is all that a waste if you’re not checking they’re the right cultural fit from the start? We believe this should be measured as early as the interview stage if you’re serious about growing a cohesive team.

Let’s be honest, the hiring process for a new starter is exactly that — a process. A long journey that could be months in the making, taking you from writing the job ad to posting it, waiting for a stream of potential candidates to apply, sifting through CVs, interviewing, and eventually you offer the role and wait what would usually be around four weeks on average for that person to start. Then that probationary period kicks in. Chances are they’ll spend that period doing their best to impress.

But what happens when a few weeks or months in and you realise that they don’t actually align with your values like they had convinced you of at the start, or they don’t play nicely with the other team members? If they’re within that probationary period then you’ve got the option to let them go — only to have to restart the dreaded hiring process again and incur the additional time and cost of doing so while BAU takes a hit. Or if they’re already a fully embedded member of the company, do you have to have many an awkward sit-down to try and iron out the kinks?

Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just work out whether they really are the right fit from the get-go? And doesn’t it make sense from a time, financial and business perspective to measure that cultural fit as early as the interview stage? We think so.

For us, getting your culture right is too important to slip up on — and by walking the walk and talking the talk ourselves, we’ve helped a lot of our clients with their own onboarding journeys. Here are a few tips we do here which can help you to measure culture fit during the interview process…

Build a rapport

People are naturally better at presenting their true self when they feel relaxed and at ease. Interviews can often be anxiety-inducing for many people when they feel under pressure to feel like they need to perform to their best abilities — the stress of which can create higher levels of cortisol which can cause memory loss. The increase in video interviews via Zoom also poses challenges with the barrier of the screen causing that natural separation. It’s therefore more important than ever to factor in time for an informal introductory chat in those initial few minutes to help put the candidate at ease so they can let their guard down and reveal their true self. Offering some preparation advice on your careers page or via the interview confirmation email can help them to feel more prepared, too.

Do they pass the values test?

Consider your permission-to-play values, aka the minimal behavioural standards required by your employees (ours are creative, genuine, agile, accountable, self-motivated, to name but a few…). It may sound harsh, but we are pretty strict on who we bring into the business, and if a candidate doesn’t match any of our minimum behaviours within our permission-to-play then they won’t even get past the first interview stage. Frankly, we don’t want to waste our time or theirs if they’re not the right fit — no matter how qualified they are. Don’t know what your permission-to-play values are, or how they differ from your core values? We’ve got a podcast here to help.

Once they reach the interview stage, try designing questions around these values and how they might relate to a specific role. Asking competency-based questions of a time where they have been under pressure or not succeeded could give you a greater understanding of their character for instance than a time they’ve performed as expected.

You can help to establish their fit, we send out an email during the interview stage – before the final interview – where they’ll get a link to complete two tests. Through the series of multiple choice questions, we’re able to decipher how strongly they sit within our values and behaviours. So we know there and then whether they match up to our minimum standards, and would therefore not only align nicely within our business, but with our team too.

Understand their personality

We don’t just assess our candidates on whether or not they align with our values — we like to dig into their personality type too. Shooting over a quick Thomas International test even before you call them in for an interview can help you to get a clearer understanding of how they think, feel and react in a work capacity, and importantly will help you during the interview stage as you’ll know how to communicate messaging to them in a way they can understand best and feel comfortable with. By doing this work early on, you can also use it to see how their MBTI type fairs with other people in the business so you can create harmony within the group.

Explore their motivations

What is their main driver for wanting to leave their current role to come and work for you? Gaining a deeper understanding of what is motivating their decisions could help you to establish not only whether they’re genuinely interested in your organisation but also will give you a greater insight into them as a person. Are they after a greater work/life balance with a shorter commute? Are they driven by money (and would they likely leave you for a better offer down the line)? Do they want to work somewhere where they feel more valued? Knowing these motivators by asking key questions could help you to assess their cultural alignment.

Meet and greet

Yes, it may seem obvious but the power of introducing potential candidates to the wider team can be really valuable and it’s a great way of assessing whether personalities will work together. Avoid intimidating 1-2-1s – as well as large crowds – and instead have the candidate meet with a handful of your trusted employee advocates along with a senior member of the team who can observe how your team members engage with them. The benefit to you is that your advocates will be able to provide you with honest feedback and, if they are the right fit, you’ll have created a positive first impression for that candidate as part of their onboarding.

In today’s war for talent, it’s never been easier for team members to quit. Now the challenge is to make it easier for people to stay. Talent retention is on the top table and it starts as early as providing a stellar onboarding process. Remember, people create companies — culture is what binds them together. Let us know if you agree and find me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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