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Cultural fit: What is it and why is it important for companies?

By Emma Tee on

With many companies emphasising culture, especially in the creative and tech industry, the term cultural fit is often thrown around. So much so, that we can almost guarantee that if you headed over to LinkedIn you’d come across the words within the first ten minutes, and it would likely come from us!

As companies continue to put culture at the heart of what they do, by highlighting it in the job descriptions and during the recruitment process, it has now become a crucial factor to consider, both from an employer and employee perspective.

But what exactly does cultural fit mean?

Cultural fit is about choosing people who share, to some extent, similar behaviours, values, and attitudes. Think about a marriage or a best mate, even though they say opposites attract, it’s likely that in some aspect or another, you’re in sync with each other. It’s the same when hiring, the more in sync you are with one another, the better results you’ll garner.

Getting it right is fundamental for a company that wants to continue having a culture to boast about. Hiring those that don’t share at least some core values, even if they tick every box listed on the job description and have experience in abundance, could impact working relationships and the culture you’re trying to protect.

It isn’t to say that everyone who is part of your team is going to be clones of each other. Affinity bias is a very real problem that needs to be considered when looking at expanding a team. Cultural fit cannot be used as a reason to only hire people who have had similar experiences or come from similar backgrounds, as it could have very serious implications. As a hiring manager, when you’re searching for someone who aligns with the company culture, you will always need to keep an open mind when it comes to the selection and interview process and should have valid reasons for making an offer to the person you’re putting an offer to and the ones you’re turning down.

Now you know what cultural fit is, you’re probably asking yourself, why is it so important?

There are many reasons why.

Hiring someone who doesn’t quite slot in can cause substantial disruption to many aspects of a company, first and foremost it can negatively impact the working environment that you want to preserve. If you’ve heard the saying ‘one bad apple spoils the barrel’ you’ll know what we’re getting at here… if two or more people are continuously butting heads you could find yourself in a ‘negativity hole’ that travels company-wide. We would say that the majority of us have walked into a situation where words have been said, and it’s not an atmosphere many of us want to be a part of, let alone one that we would want to feel when stepping into work everyday. It’s going to cause low morale which in turn is going to result in high staff turnover.

And what does high staff turnover mean? Not only does it in mean a disjointed workforce, it means money. According to research, it’s estimated that the cost of turnover per employee costs on average £30,614 when everything is considered.

You’ll also notice that when your culture is spot on you’ll see positives, not only will your team’s performance and output increase, but it’ll also go some way to attracting talent and will do wonders for your reputation within the industry too.

At a time when the market is driven by candidates and many companies are struggling to hire, it’s one area of the recruitment process that you’ll really want to focus on.

So how do you choose people that align with your company and values?

Put simply, the answer lies in the interview.

There are certain things that you can glean before the interview process starts. Reading through the interests section of a person’s CV will give you an insight into the type of person they are and their hobbies, but of course, you shouldn’t reject someone based on this section alone!

Once you’ve sifted through your applications and before interviews start, you’ll want to put together some guidelines on your culture and what means the most to the hiring manager and the company, then ask questions that will allow the potential new starter to showcase their personality and values.

Some good examples of questions you might want to ask are:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • If I were to ask a friend or colleague to describe you, what would they say?
  • What motivates you?
  • Have you had to deal with a difficult situation, if so how did you handle it?
  • Do you work best alone or as part of a team?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What are you most proud of?

You’ll notice that all of these questions are very open-ended, perfect for trying to dig a little deeper and when trying to discover the intangible.