The Secret to Hiring for Culture Fit

The Secret to Hiring for Culture Fit

Guest post by Jamie Notter, Founding Partner,

According to the 2016 McQuaig Global Talent Recruitment Survey, nearly two thirds of the respondents say it’s hard to find a cultural fit when hiring. And when there isn’t a good fit, you often end up losing people fairly quickly, and we all know that’s expensive and inefficient. So, given what’s at stake here, why are we finding it so hard to align who we’re hiring with what our culture is?

In short, it’s because the hiring process is fundamentally dishonest. I don’t mean recruiters and candidates are lying outright (though obviously that does happen). I mean that the entire system is built on the premise that neither side in the process is going to be speaking the whole truth.

On the employee side, I obviously want the job, so it is in my interest to present a picture of myself that best matches what the employer wants to see. Notice that I’m not presenting the picture of myself that reflects my own greatest strengths, potential, or aspirations in an authentic way—instead, I am telling the employer what they want to hear. It is in my interest to do so.

And on the employer side, I’m in the middle of a “war” for talent, so I’m not about to tell the whole truth of what it’s like to work here. I’ll stress how great our culture is, and share our cool core values (Integrity! Excellence! Fun! Work-life-balance!). To get the best talent to say yes, I’m going to present an attractive picture, even if that means leaving out a lot. It is in my interest to do so.



It is in all of our interests to NOT speak the truth. Hmmm, and we’re finding culture fit hard to do? Imagine that.

So how do we break this pattern? On the employee side, we’ve been making efforts. We do more assessments of candidates to get a more complete picture, and several of the companies we found in our research are actually including short-term work assignments as part of their interviewing process. You see a lot more in watching people doing the job, compared to just asking them questions about doing the job.

But what are we doing on the employer side? Why are we not working harder to present a more holistic and authentic picture of what it’s like to work at our organizations? The candidates should be able to see that information, just like we employers want to see the whole picture of who they are. The only way you get fit is if the honest picture is painted on both sides of the equation.

But the hard truth is, most employers don’t even know what their culture is. They know what their recruiting collateral SAYS their culture is, and they know about all of their effort to create a culture that the literature says you SHOULD have, but they don’t know what it’s really like to work there. They don’t know the actual genetic code that determines what employees will, in fact, experience when they work there.

At WorkXO, we have developed a workplace/culture assessment that reveals that genetic code. It doesn’t tell you whether your culture is good or bad—it tells you what your culture IS, because that, in fact, is the secret to cultural fit.

Let’s say you discover that you are a fairly hierarchical place. You may think that you should perhaps hide that trait in your hiring process, given today’s emphasis on flattening hierarchies and the growth of emerging systems of self-management, like Holacracy. But here’s the catch: what if the way you emphasize hierarchy actually drives your success in your unique environment? If you got clear on that, you’d be smart to advertise the hierarchical nature of your culture. Because then you could attract the people that want that, people who know they will thrive in that environment. Suddenly, you’re hiring people who naturally connect to what you already know drives your success. That’s cultural fit.

But it starts with knowing what is, and then connecting that to what drives your success—two steps that most organizations today are ignoring. But not the ones who are winning the war for talent.

Jamie Notter is a founding partner at WorkXO where he helps leaders create stronger cultures and upgrade their workplaces, based on a deeper understanding of their organizational genetic code. He brings 25 years of experience in conflict resolution, generational differences, leadership, and culture change to his consulting and speaking. Author of When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business, and Humanize: How People Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World, Jamie serves as adjunct faculty at Georgetown University.


Share this post


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply:
Please enter a valid email address
Please enter your comment