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Assessing Candidates for Cultural Fit

18 Feb 19 by Jason Bishop

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Assessing Candidates for Cultural Fit

Much has been said about the importance of cultural fit, and it’s an issue that is just as prevalent in IT organisations today. Without cultural fit, a new hire that looked perfect on paper can easily deteriorate a few months down the line when it becomes apparent that they don’t align with the company’s core attitudes, ideals and goals. However, there’s more to it than simply finding someone that shares common traits with the rest of your team. So, how do you assess candidates to ensure they not only meet your requirements from a skills perspective, but also complement your culture as well?

Values vs. Priorities

When hiring, one of the most prominent mistakes that employers make is to focus on a candidate’s personality. It’s widely believed that hiring people that fit into the existing culture will help them settle faster and gel with the team, but there is a flipside to hiring people with identical mindsets. After all, you don’t want a team of carbon-copy employees who all think in the same way, particularly in the IT industry, where innovation is the lifeblood of the business. Instead, consider a wider approach. Ideally, you are looking for someone who can challenge the company’s (and team’s) thinking, encourage positive change and implement new solutions or ways of doing things. Whilst personality definitely plays its part in deciding whether a candidate is the right fit or not, as long as the fundamental values of the company and candidate align, you should be safe.

What to Look for When Assessing Cultural Fit

Here are four key elements to consider when assessing candidates for cultural fit:

  1. Managerial style – Understand the management style in which the candidate will thrive under. How have they worked with managers in the past? What motivates them? What do they perceive to be a good manager?
  2. Success in previous work environments – Consider where the candidate has thrived most. For example, if they have been successful within an innovative tech startup, it may suggest that they prefer smaller organisations over large ones, or that having access to the latest technology is a priority for them.
  3. Structure of the role – Whilst the wider company may offer a great fit for the candidate, it still comes down to the structure of the role itself, such as its pace, level of autonomy and team focus. For example, if the role requires working with stakeholders outside of the IT team, is the candidate equipped to do this?
  4. Referrals – Though it is important to do your own assessment, considering a candidate who has been referred by a trusted source (who also understands the values and culture of the company) can often be a good indicator of fit.

Common Interview Questions to Assess Cultural Fit

Asking behavioural and situational questions are often designed to delve into a candidate’s motivators, preferences and ethics, helping you to paint a clear idea of their values. So, lets take a look at some specific questions to add to your list to ask:

  • What are some of the things that you liked most about your previous job and the environment that you worked in?
  • Can you give an example of a time where you were in charge of completing a complex IT project? How did you minimise downtime and reduce disruption to the business?
  • How would you describe your ideal work environment?
  • Describe a time when you had to communicate highly technical information to non-technical personnel. How did you handle this?
  • Have you ever been faced by an ethical issue at work? How did you work through it?
  • In order to be successful and happy in your job, what would you consider to be the most important factor?
  • Can you think of a time you implemented an innovative IT solution that improved business processes?
  • Is there a particular management style that you find motivates you to work harder?

Summary

As with any relationship (work or otherwise), if the fit is wrong, the relationship is bound to fail. Whilst it may seem a challenge, being aware of the nuances involved with cultural fit will help you to find the people you need to create a well-rounded team. To understand more about cultural fit, or for help with your IT recruitment needs, get in touch with the team at Sourced.