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Recruiting for Culture Fit

By Mark Busine

Mark BusineIn a competitive business environment, one of the toughest decisions an organisation can make is choosing not to work with a particular customer or client. When the customer’s expectations don’t match the organisation's or the "fit" is just not right, it is important to make this difficult but significant decision. The same applies to the talent market. While the market for talent may already be the world's most competitive, sometimes it is the individuals we choose not to proceed with who may represent the most important decisions. Hiring the wrong person for the job can be costly. The time and expenses associated with sourcing and interviewing candidates, together with the negative, long-term financial and non-financial implications of hiring the wrong person, make finding and hiring the right person critical.

Traditionally, organisations have focused on identifying and selecting people based on their skills and experience. It makes sense. If you can find someone who has the right set of skills and has done a similar job, there is a good chance they will be able to perform effectively in a new role. However, while skills and experience continue to be important, research and practice increasingly point to "fit" as a key differentiator in the selection process. Interestingly, the term resonates with most people, and while they may struggle to define it, they often can cite examples of where the "fit was wrong."

DDI defines fit in two distinct ways. Job Fit Motivation refers to the degree to which the activities and responsibilities of a particular job are consistent with the activities and responsibilities that an individual finds personally satisfying. In short, will somebody want to do the job? Organisation Fit Motivation is defined as an individual’s compatibility with an organisation’s values and mode of operation. While organisation fit covers a range of organisational attributes, the most common and frequently cited element centres on the congruence between individual and organisational values. This is often referred to as culture fit.

While the data from both constructs play an important role in making effective hiring decisions, researchers and practitioners believe organisational fit increasingly represents the key. As the parameters of jobs continue to blur, and individuals are asked to embrace a range of responsibilities, the knowledge and skills needed for a specific job may be less important.

How to Embed and Assess ‘’Fit’’ as Part of a Recruitment Process

  • Articulate the value proposition up front—clearly and realistically articulate the attributes of the organisation to prospective employees. This increases the likelihood of attracting the right people in the first place. Your sourcing methods should communicate a clear message about the job and the organisation.
  • Use tools such as Realistic Job Previews and/or "Day-in-the-Life" profiles to help applicants self-screen. These enable applicants to better understand the dynamics of a particular job and organisation and make decisions early about suitability for the position. As such, many applicants may self-screen themselves out of the recruitment process.
  • Utilise some form of motivational fit tool—this typically involves three steps.
    1. Analyse the job and organisational characteristics that are most present and absent in the role and organisation to determine a job and organisation profile.
    2. Ask prospective employees to complete a motivations, values, or preferences questionnaire to provide information about characteristics they would find appealing or unappealing in an ideal job and organisation.
    3. Compare the organisation and individual profiles to determine suitability and fit. Effective tools will also generate motivational fit questions that can be used in the interview to further explore suitability and fit.
  • Describe values in behavioural terms and use behaviour-based questions to assess suitability. Alternatively, identify competencies that align with the core values and ensure that interview questions are constructed to address these. Most competency models often include constructs that are similar to those that make up culture fit. A good example is customer focus. An effective competency model will include specific behavioural indicators that articulate how the value of customer focus applies to a job or family of jobs.
  • Ensure all managers and individuals are adequately trained in recruitment practices. This should include behavioural interviewing, motivational fit concepts, and interpretation/evaluation of recruitment data.

While it is true that the balance of power has shifted to the candidate, organisations must repel the temptation to simply recruit the first person who applies. With a clear and articulated understanding of the culture and employee value proposition, organisations are much better placed to ensure that decisions provide both the organisation and employee with the best possible outcome.

Mark Busine is managing director for DDI Australia

Posted: 22 May, 2015,
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