Rethinking the Concept of Culture Fit
Article by Aly Merritt
I’ve been doing a lot of culture interviews lately.
SalesLoft is growing at a crazy rate, but hiring people means participating in a lengthy process that includes everything from phone screenings and email questionnaires to filling out assessments and speaking with candidates in person.
Recruitment software company Workable reports on a metric called “average number of interviews per hire,” which the company says is key in revealing how much time senior members of the team are spending on each individual hire. Workable found that, regardless of industry or country, the average number of interviews per hire is 13. Marketing automation company Marketo reports that it conducts eight interviews per hire, though this number varies depending on the role. For example, finance takes more interviews while, interestingly, engineering takes fewer.
I know, it seems like a lot of time to spend just talking to people, but making a bad hire can be really costly. According to the SHRM Foundation, “Research suggests that direct replacement costs can reach as high as 50-60 percent of an employee’s annual salary, with total costs associated with turnover ranging from 90 to 200 percent of annual salary” (emphasis added). Furthermore, applicant tracking system Recruiterbox says that 38 percent of bad hires result from companies rushing to fill positions!
As people started to realize the cost of bad hires and the glamorization of tech/startup culture began, there came a big push in favor of “culture interviews” to help identify the right candidate. Publications everywhere wanted to tell you why you should be hiring for culture fit and the best questions to ask. Of course, in response (because internets), we’re now hearing why you shouldn’t hire for culture fit and how it can negatively impact diversity or mask discrimination.
Here is what I have to say about culture interviews: They’re incredibly important to building a cohesive, intelligent, transparent, creative, innovative, and motivated team, but whether a culture interview helps you build that type of team really depends on what “culture fit” means to your company.
If by “culture fit” you mean whether or not you’d grab a beer with a person after work, you may want to rethink your standards.
When I go into a culture interview, I’m not looking for someone who looks or acts like me (though we all have an inherent bias in favor of people who are like us, and we should all be aware of this bias when hiring). I’m not looking for someone who reads the same books, or lives in the same area of town, or is at the same stage in life, or likes the same restaurants. That’s how you end up hiring people who think just like you do, which leads to a lack of diversity in your workplace. That, in turn, leads to reduced creativity, diligence, and hard work.
Instead, I’m looking for someone who fits the SalesLoft core values.
Now, let’s be clear on this: Core values are only as good as your company makes them. They can be empty and meaningless phrases you put on a PowerPoint slide at conferences, or they can be words and actions you live by. They have to be consistently upheld by everyone on your team, from leadership on down, and you have to hold each other accountable.
People can align with your core values without being just like you. When I’m conducting a culture interview, I’m looking for someone who will find the silver lining in a tough situation and say, “Okay, well, let’s not do that again. Here’s what we learned from it, and here’s how to fix it!” I’m looking for someone who is willing to talk about not only successes but also failures, someone who is humbly open to finding a better way to do something. Someone who continually looks to grow and learn new things, who takes the time to get to know, value, trust, and support their coworkers. Someone who works to understand where someone else is coming from in any situation.
I’m looking for an approach to life, not a socioeconomic or demographic match. On paper, some of my teammates could not look more different from one another, but when it comes to core values, they all align. They think outside the box because their boxes don’t even touch each other, and this diversity of thought shows up in amazing ways throughout the company.
We as a company are also working on inclusion and diversity (an effort led by my fantastic coworker, Carina!) by looking at the myriad ways conscious and unconscious biases impact what we do, what we say, and how we say it. We’re holding each other accountable to thinking this way. We are committed to continual growth because we can always be a better place to work.
I’m lucky to work with incredible people, but with every culture interview, I see the chance to grow and improve – another opportunity to bring in a fresh viewpoint. I see a chance to learn something new, something different, something amazing.
I see a chance to build a team that gets exponentially stronger with every addition, and that’s why I do culture interviews. Our people are our most valuable resource. In the long run, 14 interviews is a small price to pay to make our team better.