Hiring a new employee is a gamble. While resumes and interviews can give you a decent understanding of who a candidate is and how they may perform, there is no way to predict with 100 percent certainty which candidates will succeed if hired. And it doesn’t help that candidates always ensure to put their best feet forward during the hiring process, doing everything they can to conceal their flaws and failings.

Unlike skills and abilities, personalities can be next to impossible to pinpoint during the interview process. For this reason, employers must be extra careful when attempting to understand how a candidate will fit in with the company’s culture.

What Is Company Culture?

Before we can talk about hiring for culture fit in depth, we have to first define the concept of company culture itself.

Essentially, a company’s culture is its personality. A lot goes into creating a company’s personality, including the work environment, the values and behaviors of company leaders, and the way that individual personalities in the workforce mesh together.

Trying to understand the culture of a company is a lot like trying to understand the personality of a human being. This is because a company’s culture, like an individual’s personality, is a complex system of behaviors and gestures driven by wants, needs, and experiences that vary greatly from company to company.

Companies, like people, rely on their identities to give them direction. Without a strong identity, a company will likely end up with a subpar work environment.

How Is Company Culture Formed?

In most organizations, the executive team defines what the company culture is. The executives’ collective beliefs about how the workplace should run typically lay the groundwork on which the company culture is built.

However, there is only so much a CEO or president can do when it comes to shaping the company’s culture because. For better or worse, the individuals in the workforce ultimately decide what the culture will look like in action.

Can You Teach Culture?

This question has become more pressing as more and more companies recognize the importance of hiring for cultural fit.

It isn’t hard to teach someone new skills once they start a job, but it can be extremely difficult to change someone’s personality. This is why many organizations now use assessments to evaluate not only candidates’ skills, but also their personalities. Every worker you hire will influence the company culture. Good culture fits strengthen the culture, but bad fits can damage the culture — or even create toxic workplaces.

How to Hire for Culture Fit

Because a company’s culture is ultimately defined by the individuals in its workforce, hiring managers need to make sure to hire only candidates who will help promote the desired company culture. Here are some key points on identifying these candidates:

1. Dig Deeper

Instead of only looking at a candidate’s abilities, education, and work history, check our their extracurricular activities as well. What do they do outside of work? What are their hobbies? What groups do they belong to?

A candidate’s personal pursuits and passions can be strong indicators of the kind of person they will be in the workplace. For example, candidates who like to play team sports are likely to be good team players in the office, too.

Of course, that same sports-loving candidate could be an abrasively competitive egomaniac. So while hobbies can be good signs of a candidate’s personality, you can’t rely on them alone.

2. Use Personality Tests

Pre-hire assessments and personality tests can help hiring managers gain deeper understandings of candidates’ characters outside the interview room. As with looking at a candidate’s extracurricular activities, hiring managers must understand that these tests are not perfect. They only constitute one piece of the culture fit puzzle.

3. Ask the Right Questions

The best way to experience a candidate’s personality directly is to ask the right questions during the interview.

You want to ask tough questions that might cause a candidate to fumble or make them slightly uncomfortable. This may seem harsh, but your candidates are more likely to show their true selves when they are thrown off guard.

Some good questions might include:

- Tell us about a time where you encountered a problem and failed. What did you learn?
- Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team? Why?
- How do you handle constructive feedback?
- Tell us about a time you had to fill in for a coworker. Were you successful? How did the experience make you feel?

By asking these questions, you should be able to get a good feel for how the candidate will handle real-world situations in the workplace.

Additionally, it’s important to look beyond the candidate’s words and pay attention to their body language. Body language can reveal a lot about a candidate, like their comfort level and whether they’re being evasive.

Aiden Mathieu is a digital marketing associate at Newton Software.

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