How to hire for cultural fit

Though important in any workplace, cultural fit takes on added significance in a small business. With limited spots on your team, an out-of-place employee can have a quick, severe impact on morale and productivity. Spending time finding people who truly believe in your company’s mission and way of doing things can reduce turnover, lead to greater job satisfaction, and promote superior performance. Use these tips when hiring to discover great cultural matches for your small business:

Define your culture

Entrepreneurial spirit? Flexibility? Calmness under pressure? Ask yourself which traits you value most in current staff members and which qualities a newcomer should possess in order to mesh with your team’s existing vibe. A small business owner with a good grasp of what it takes to be a successful employee at this particular company can start looking for appropriate people to fill openings.

Publicize your culture in your job description

You advertise for the nut-and-bolt skills essential for a given position, so why not specify the cultural qualifications too? All parties benefit when you provide a clear idea of what a successful candidate should expect, so offer details and a slice of real life. For example, is collaboration central to your small business? Highlight your open-office structure in the recruitment video, call for team players in your job ad, and post examples of staff members working together on your social media pages. People with a preference for individual contribution will get the message and not apply, saving you the time of weeding them out.

Look to social media

While people may bring their professional selves to work and let loose on their social accounts, you can learn a lot about how people react to different situations by seeing what they write (or who they talk to) online. Even private accounts tell you a lot — that the candidate isn’t careless with their profile and content. Just be careful not to look too much into your Google search. Some content may have been posted by a third-party source years ago and is not a current reflection of how the job seeker engages with the world or behaves at work. Maybe the candidate spent time as a DJ but traded in their late-night lifestyle to go to nursing school. Whatever the case, don’t read too much into images, especially old ones.

Get details during interviews

Interviews can provide a wealth of information about cultural fit. To avoid simply receiving appropriate but generic answers (such as “I’m a team player” or “I get along well with everyone”), ask candidates for opinions or to share actual examples. How does the person’s response to “describe a work culture or environment in which you would not be happy” or “tell me the kind of culture you thrive in” match up to your workplace? Can the individual recount in detail past experiences in which she demonstrated values essential to your company, such as going above and beyond for a customer or performing a task outside of her job description?

Introduce candidates to the whole team

Introduce promising candidates to the whole team. With their first-hand knowledge of your small business, they can provide applicants with thoughtful answers about daily life and give you honest feedback as to how well a particular individual might fare. Conduct a group interview, arrange shadowing for a day, or foot the bill for a casual lunch. If working remotely, set up one-on-ones to allow for more meaningful conversations with a few people the candidate would work alongside regularly. This also lets a candidate get to know the team a little better and have a chance to opt out before you get to the offer stage.

Cultural fit should not be an afterthought, so build evaluation of it into your standard hiring procedure.

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