Finding Your Tribe: How Culture Fit Affects Your Job Search

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One of the biggest trends in talent recruiting is company’s screening candidates for ‘culture fit’.  And, even though culture fit has been a best practice in talent and recruiting strategy for decades in more progressive and people-focused companies – more recently medium, small and start-up companies are understanding its importance and implementing relevant screening activities.

Candidates screening activities now may include skills questionnaires, behavioral assessments, personality profiles, etc. as part of the recruitment process in addition to initial job qualification screens done by applicant tracking systems and recruiters.  Now a recruiter may do their usual phone screen with a candidate to ask about job goals, why they want to work there, review high level experience and inquire about compensation expectations to further screen; and, in addition, they may send a link to an online assessment for the candidate to complete in order to screen for culture fit and reduce the candidate pool further before presenting a handful to the hiring manager.  

Why are companies doing this?  Companies with strong cultures want to keep them that way so they want to hire talent they can retain and that will be productive. Culture ‘fit’ has a direct correlation to employee engagement. Employee engagement, or lack thereof, positively or negatively, affects the company’s financial bottom line.  And because a company’s talent is a huge expense (labor costs), they want to increase the likelihood that employees will want to stay for awhile and successfully apply their talents. 

For decades, companies focused predominantly on hiring for ‘job fit’ and over time, it became harder and harder to attain their strategic and financial goals. While they were effectively hiring people who met, or exceeded, the job requirements – those chosen may not have been the best team members to work with.  Most experienced workers have been on a team of people who fit their job requirements; yet, those same people were a wide spectrum of personalities from super team-oriented and conscientious to super self-centered bullies where the latter crushed the souls of the former and team productivity plummeted.  While that was an extreme example, it shows my point.  Who we are and how we behave while doing our work – now matter to employers much more than before. The current logic is that a company can train the skills gap (i.e. job fit) but hiring a self-centered bully that could decimate a team and/or a great culture is not in their best interest.  

When people work in jobs that align their talents with their work responsibilities AND they work among people who have similar character and behavior traits and care about the same things they do, they typically like their work more and do more of it to help the company’s financial success.  Data shows that engaged employees apply more discretionary effort to their work resulting in increased productivity, product innovation, improved customer experience, etc.   

  • Job Fit recruiting is focused specifically on connecting minimum job requirements (i.e. years and type of experience, education (if applicable) and other competencies specific to the position and level.) Think of this as the task orientation part of a job. It answers the question of ‘could the candidate do the job tasks?’
  • Culture Fit recruiting is Job Fit (see above) PLUS assessing an individuals’ values, beliefs and attitudes and whether those are aligned with the company’s culture: core values, behavioral expectations and performance success factors.

To be successful in a job search, candidates now need to be qualified to do the job AND self aware. They need to know what they value, what their strengths are and be able to articulate how they’d fit with the organizational culture ~ which by their own uniqueness differentiates them from other candidates. There are many ways candidates can find this information out prior to taking an assessment by a potential employer. I always recommend job seekers attain this knowledge about themselves through career coaches, job placement and training companies so they can show self-awareness, build their confidence in their unique talent mix and show they’re open to personal and professional growth and development.

What many candidates forget when they get a phone call that begins the process, is that interviews are a way for both sides, Hiring Manager and Job Seeker, to make assessments about job fit and culture fit.  Conscious Hiring Managers want to bring in talent that adds value and productivity to their team packaged inside a person who espouses similar values, attitudes and beliefs as their company to increase engagement. Job seekers deserve to find their tribe and bring all their talents to work in an environment aligned with their values, character traits and career aspirations — so they can be the best most productive versions of themselves at work. People Matter in Business.

Cindy Goyette, CC, SPHR, MA – 2019

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