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Everyone wants to Hire Great Cultural Fits however Few knows how to Identify them during Hiring

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

The Great Resignation which started last year is not a thing of the past, disturbingly the trend continues worldwide. In India attrition numbers has been highest in two decades. Whether it is TCS or Infosys or Wipro or HCL you name it, everyone is bleeding. Companies like Infosys has been hit so bad that they have reached attrition rate of 27% last quarter and ended up inserting clauses in the employees’ contracts preventing them from working with rival companies . However I am not writing this article to make you understand why employees are leaving or leave usually, I intend to focus on which type of employees do not leave you so easily specially during your rough time.

Yes I do know and recognize that competitive salaries, growth, work from home flexibilities are important retention factors however I like to be practical and think of business as a journey of ups and downs. Sometimes your company will do well to afford all perks and sometimes your company might go through a tough time when you might have to cut corners, employees who leave you when you go through a rough patch was never with you for your purpose and culture in the first place. Employees who stays back are the ones who either are poor performers who could not crack job interviews or they might be good cultural fits who really loves to work in your organization and their colleagues. By now, so many books, articles and research has been done ( and still continuing ) on impact of culture on organizations long term profitability and success, that almost all organization has started talking and acting on culture building. Personally it is deeply satisfying to me. A good culture is not a luxury but absolute necessity these days. However building culture is one thing and hiring people who can keep the torch burning is another. Companies want good to great cultural fits however a lot of them still do not invest time in developing a process and mechanism to spot those cultural fits during hiring. I believe that if you have a very strong culture and worthy mission then even if you hire a few cultural misfits you can still rely on your string culture and strong values to transform those individuals over some time ( might take long time but it is possible ). However not every organization has strong culture, some might be good or average and some might be just starting to build one. So for those companies having a sound hiring mechanism is absolutely necessary. Now in this open world I cannot reveal all tricks of the trade since this article will be visible to a recruiter and as well as a candidate so if you are a recruiter reading this article then I am giving you some ideas here which will ( hopefully ) give you a starting point of building that mechanism in your company.

The Prerequisites

The only prerequisite to have a great hiring mechanism is to dedicate a lot of time, effort and some money to create that mechanism. If you trust your hiring managers and HRs to just get it and hire good fits and leave the judgements to them, then please do not waste your time reading any further. Trust comes after you have set up the system, mechanism and have trained them on that. Trust comes after all that hard work done to create that hiring system.

Creating the System

Understanding yourself - The very first step is to introspect and understand your organization culture first. What are your core values and does most of your employees act according to the values and feel the presence of this culture around them ? If not you need to fix that first, build a good culture first. If you have a great culture then try to study your own employees who are great cultural fits and those who are bad cultural fits. Most often your cultural fits will also turn out to be great performers as well. So try to analyze them and study them to see a pattern. Every company is different so understanding your existing cultural fits or misfits become very important. You may use different techniques like interviewing their managers or using surveys. The outputs will give you some idea about what to look for in a candidate while hiring.

The Initial Pull - The very first contact you make with a potential candidate is via job ads. So if your job ads does not stand out from the rest in terms of differentiating culture, you will attract all sort of people and you will put your hiring team and managers under a lot of stress. Have a look at this job ad for a Service Delivery Manager from Ericsson.

How often do you see this kind of job ads. Now look at the below job ad for an Operation expert Retail at Apple.

Do you see any difference as to how the two companies are communicating to the potential candidates. One started with experience and skills required to do the job and another started with how you feel when you make customers happy. If someone does not feel ecstatic in helping customers then they might not apply after seeing that Apples ad but will apply for Ericsson since he has the skills. Chances are that some people may still go ahead and apply for Apple even if they do not feel the same way as Apple wants, however they will get filtered out during the interviews, the advantage is however, that by precision ads like these you can avoid at least few misfits from applying for the job. You can think about this and brainstorm with recruiters how your company's job ad might look like. Filtering via ads is your initial pull of potential candidates.

Calibration - Based on the initial output you got for your cultural fit and misfit employees, device questionnaires for interviews. This will take time, so be patient and conduct multiple brainstorming sessions with hiring managers and recruiters. It also will be a great idea to hire some external consultants as well for fresh perspectives. Post you have finalized the questions, think of what kind of answers you can get and how will you evaluate those answers. Like all metrics whether its financial or performance, hiring good cultural fits should also be one of your metric to track and measure. Unless something is measurable how can you think of improving it. So you can think of creating a grid which will allow you to rate the answers per category and then at the end, add those numbers up and evaluate whether the candidate can be hired or not. Post you are done, it will be time for training and calibration of your hiring managers.

Show your Intent - It is not enough to just state that " We want to hire cultural fits ", you need to walk the talk. Typically in an interview process, candidate's skills are assessed and then comes the hiring manager round and then the HR round. It basically sends out a loud and clear message to everyone that we first value skillsets, that is why you conduct your skill round or technical round first, correct ? This has been the norm for many decades and it has worked many times so it became popular and accepted norm however times have changed, workforce has changed, their outlook and priorities have changed so this needs to change as well ( If you are serious about hiring cultural fits ).

The biggest drawback of the above model for me is, if a candidate clears the skill round and fares poorly in the management round, the hiring manager think twice before rejecting since at the back of his mind, he is always thinking " Am I rejecting a highly skilled guy just for some of my questions since he cleared the skill round ? ". This causes a lot of cultural misfits to get a benefit of doubt from the hiring managers. The solution is to get your management round done up at front.

This does two things, number one, it shows your intent to hire cultural fits and number two, it lets your hiring manager make his decision without any second thought as no one knows how skillful the candidate is, the decision will be made solely on whether the candidate seems to be aligned with values and culture of the organization. If he is not skilled enough, he will get rejected in the skill round.

Group Interviews - When people are put in a group, you can observe how they treat each other, it can give you a signal as to how they might work in a team environment. Now since this is an interview everyone will try to out compete each other so you are not looking for camaraderie here, however if you are a keen observer you will notice those small stuff like interrupting others rudely etc. which will tell you something. Also remember that not all personality types will shine in a group interview so do not judge anyone if someone speaks less or more, try to judge only in terms behavior, logic and reasoning. Also have multiple hiring managers in the panel instead of only one. This will increase chances of reducing biases or judgement errors by one person. Sometimes one might miss a point which the other person might have observed so it gives you that added advantage of making a good decision at the end.

I stop here now. As I told earlier, anything more I give out will be accessible to candidates as well so I hope the above points have created some neuron flashes in your brain and you would have some takeaways from this to create your own robust hiring system. If you have done something which has proven to be successful then please share your comments below, since we all are learning everyday and trying to get better. I wish you all the best.

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