Hire for Cultural Fit

Hiring managers have a tendency to base hiring decisions on the skill or technical competence of the potential candidate and pay less attention to the candidate’s fit with the work environment, unless the skill level is comparable to other candidates and they need tie-breaker criteria for their decision.  In my experience, effective talent management begins with making great hires and that is typically achieved when leaders focus on selecting candidates that have excellent fit with the organization’s culture.  In fact, I recommend placing priority emphasis on the cultural fit of potential hires rather than focusing on those with the highest degree of technical competence.

I’m not suggesting that leaders disregard skill level or technical competence in the candidate selection process, certainly the selected candidate must demonstrate an ability to perform the basic duties of the job.  But assuming a candidate demonstrates a basic aptitude to perform the requirements of the job, I do believe that that a candidate’s cultural fit with the work environment is a far better indicator of future success and critical to achieving long term value for the organization.

Zappos is a popular example of focusing on new hires that fit their culture.  Not only does the entire work group play an active role in talent selection, but Zappos even pays the employee $2,000 to leave if the employee is not delighted with the cultural fit.  For Zappos, cultural fit is the key to sustained high performance and to creating competitive advantage in a market crowded with outlets for purchasing shoes.

So how do leaders hire for cultural fit?  There are as many paths as there are leaders, but I suggest using a few simple and straight-forward guidelines to shape your approach:


Be clear as to which attitudes, competencies, and behaviors will drive your business to achieving your goals and define them for use in guiding your talent selection and development.  The New England Patriots of the National Football League are an excellent example is this area, and the success of their franchise has been league-leading for years.  Their model places a priority emphasis on hiring the “right 52 players” and revolves around a clear understanding of the desired attitudes, behaviors, and skills necessary for the team to perform at a high level season after season.  For the Patriots, cultural fit is an absolute priority.  They don’t always hire the most skilled or highly acclaimed player at each position, but they are unwavering in their attention to finding talent that will fit their model and approach to long-term success.


Allow your culture profile to guide where to seek out these specific attitudes, competencies, and behaviors, and embrace non-traditional sources for this talent in the labor market.  For example, a public accounting firm focused on developing deep business relationships with their clients may seek business development professionals from banking or professional services to lead their client relationships rather than looking for CPA’s for that role.  High performers from these environments possess the attitudes and competencies that enable them to excel in developing and cultivating excellent long-term relationships with their clients.


Assemble simple and straight-forward tools to assess candidates for fit with your culture.  For example, assessment testing can provide you with useful information about the candidate and their fit for your culture if you have well-defined competencies and expected behaviors.  There are many to choose from, and your choice should be dependent upon the competencies, attitudes, and behaviors you’re trying to measure.

In addition, take advantage of online tools like Google search, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. to assess the candidate’s online brand and alignment with your required competencies, attitudes, and behaviors.

To create competitive advantage, leaders must be bold enough to think and act beyond commonly accepted practice.  By focusing on those elements of the job that define the spirit of the organization, we dare to be different and build a compelling and attractive work environment where employees can continually grow and perform and create competitive advantage.

Are you looking to accelerate the performance of your business and establish a simple and straight-forward system to guide and focus the people in your organization?  Then reach-out to us and learn more about our people framework model, and for a no-cost, no obligation assessment.  Establishing a strong and lasting framework for your business is critical to lasting success.  Are you ready to make the transfoHRmation?

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