How to Conduct an Effective Cultural Fit Assessment

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Over 80% of recruiters believe that culture has become a prominent factor in the selection process. Yet, many organizations still struggle with conducting an effective cultural fit assessment. How can you make sure that your cultural fit assessment adequately evaluates your candidates’ culture fit?

Contents
What is a cultural fit assessment?
Why use a cultural fit assessment?
Difficulties assessing cultural fit
Tips for conducting an effective cultural fit assessment

What is a cultural fit assessment?

Cultural fit assessment is a combination of methods designed to determine a candidate’s cultural fit during the recruitment and selection process by collecting and analyzing a series of data. This can include pre-employment assessments, personality questionnaires, or cultural-specific interview questions. A cultural fit assessment is a valuable tool to measure and evaluate cultural fit in an objective way.

Collecting the right data and asking the right questions is key to determining whether someone is the right cultural fit for your organization or not. This will help you hire people who are most likely to fit in with your organization, decrease your staff turnover rate, and drive your business forward. You will also see improved morale and happiness levels amongst all your employees. In short, it is key to boosting your quality of hire.

What exactly do we mean by cultural fit?

Cultural fit refers to how aligned an employee is with the culture of an organization. That means the employee’s goals, values, and belief system connect with the company’s own goals and values. 

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Various factors form your company culture, including: 

  • values
  • vision
  • ways of working
  • language and communication styles
  • belief systems 
  • habits
  • acceptable or preferred behaviors

Although an employee might have the required skill set to perform in their role and complete their daily tasks, they won’t perform at the highest level if they don’t fit in with their team, department, or the wider company culture.

This is why cultural fit is so crucial. Ideally, you’re looking for a candidate who fits in seamlessly from day one, creates a good impression with clients and customers, becomes a valued and liked member of their team, and excels in their role.  

For example, if your company requires collaboration for success, an employee who is a good cultural fit with your organization is likely to have a collaborative approach and work well within a team. On the other hand, someone who prefers to work alone most or all of the time would not be a good cultural fit.

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Another example is if your organization prioritizes sales and is highly focused on selling, and encourages competition between employees. Someone who is confident, naturally competitive, and works well under pressure will be a good cultural fit. In contrast, someone who is less assertive or easily intimidated would not be a good cultural fit.

The problem is, cultural fit can be notoriously difficult to measure. 

Why?

Because it’s not focused on the candidate’s competency level, it’s based on the company’s internal values. Unless these values are absolutely clear, it is not easy to know who your ideal employee is. Also, it’s difficult to predict how well a candidate will integrate into your organization before working there. 

So, how do you ensure you find a candidate that is great at their job and also a strong cultural fit? 

That’s where a cultural fit assessment comes into the equation.

Why use a cultural fit assessment?

According to a psychological study, employees who fit well with their company are:

  • Happier and more satisfied at work in their role
  • Identify more strongly with their company
  • Are more likely to remain with their company
  • Are more committed
  • Perform better in their job

Employees who don’t fit with their company culture are more likely to quit their job, be disruptive, negatively affect projects, bring down team morale, and harm client or customer relationships. 

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However, culture is difficult to measure and quantify. Your current employees may be happy with the existing organizational culture. But if this isn’t regularly being assessed and evaluated, it’s challenging to gain an accurate picture of what’s working and what needs improvement. Your organization might even need a cultural transformation.

This will inevitably affect the hiring process. If organizations don’t know the specific traits they’re looking for or the true intention of their culture, hiring can become a case of guesswork and hoping everything works out. 

This is where cultural fit assessment tests and tools can be a major advantage and help you find and hire candidates who are the right cultural fit for your organization. 

Two of the most common causes of poor cultural fit hiring in any organization are:

  1. Your hiring managers and recruiters are misaligned on the traits you’re looking for in candidates that make them a good cultural fit.
  2. You’re solely relying on resumes or interviews, which can’t fully measure cultural fit. 

Standardized cultural fit assessments will solve both of these challenges. 

Firstly, by assessing your current employees. Secondly, by gathering as much data on current and past employees to determine which data points correlate best with worker success. 

This data can come from various sources, including resumes, previous cultural fit assessments, or your performance management system. 

You need to find an accurate model for your unique cultural fit. Then, proceed to analyze data from job applicants to see whether they are likely to be a good fit for your organization’s culture. 

This is why cultural fit assessments are becoming increasingly popular and a key factor in the hiring process. 

Difficulties assessing cultural fit

Although assessing cultural fit may appear to be a simple task, it’s more complicated than it looks.

One of the biggest concerns is bias. Someone who is considered a good cultural fit is subjective and open to interpretation by different people. Personal preferences and intuition can often influence hiring decisions. And it’s easy to see how this happens. 

For example, try ranking a set of candidates based on a cultural trait like passion or flexibility. Managers can often mistake what a good cultural fit means and choose to hire candidates they like and are similar to themselves. 

Another concern is getting clear on what the actual (or desired) company culture is. If you can’t define it or agree on culture, you can’t begin hiring employees who are a good cultural fit.

Also, some people misunderstand what cultural fit is and mistake it for having employees and colleagues that you’d like to socialize with outside of work. This can then lead to organizations continually hiring very similar people who are not necessarily the best overall candidates. Moreover, it can also lead to hindering your diversity efforts.

Here’s an example of the challenges of assessing cultural fit in a real-life scenario.

Candidate A and B both have the critical skills required for the job they’re applying for. They are both fairly sociable people. However, candidate A enjoys chatting with colleagues every day as they work, while candidate B remains super focused on work. They prefer to be isolated to complete tasks but enjoy socializing with colleagues on lunch breaks and get on with their team just as well. 

Both of these candidates are sociable and can integrate well with their team, but their behaviors will both have different impacts on their colleagues.

How do you decide which candidate is the best cultural fit for your organization?

Because assessing for culture fit can be so complex, many employers avoid it altogether. But this is a mistake and not a long-term strategy for success. 

According to a survey, 74% of employees said they felt demotivated working for an organization where they were a poor cultural fit, while 73% have left a job because of a poor cultural fit. A high staff turnover rate creates disruption and costs your organization valuable money, time, and other resources. 

7 tips for conducting an effective cultural fit assessment

Here’s how to ensure you conduct an effective cultural fit assessment in your organization. These steps will help you make sure you continue to hire candidates who integrate well into your existing teams and align with your values and long-term mission.

1. Know your company culture

To know your company culture, everyone must be on the same page when it comes to what your values, goals, belief systems, communication styles, daily practices, levels of formality, and expectations look like. 

Whether it has been a conscious decision or not, your organization already has a culture. To analyze what this looks like, you can use a validated assessment such as Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) to analyze and determine what you want to change and improve. 

Make time to regularly discuss and proactively define your company culture, and make sure everyone is on board. This is particularly valuable for HR teams. They can then use this knowledge to hire the candidates who are the best fit for the job and a good culture fit.

2. Compare candidates’ preferences to your culture

You can do this through a dedicated pre-employment assessment or a personality questionnaire. However, it’s important to set benchmarks for the results and know what you’re looking for within candidates.

The International Personality Item Pool (IPIP-NEO) test is one of the most well-known personality questionnaires. It helps you measure how culturally compatible a candidate is with your organization.

For example, if your culture values employees who have a high ability to influence in their role, you’re likely looking for a candidate who challenges authority and likes to be empowered to make their own decisions. On the other hand, an organization that values a low ability to influence would be looking for someone who tends to respect hierarchical structure and needs direction. 

If your culture values collectivism, you’re ideally looking for candidates who are generally cooperative and have a “doing it for others” mentality. If your culture values individualism, you’ll want independent, free-thinking candidates and don’t often like to work in teams or share ideas.

As we’ve mentioned above, you can first assess your existing employees with the same tool to set benchmarks for your applicants.

3. Ask cultural fit questions in your interviews

To assess cultural fit in an interview setting, it’s important to ask the right questions. Behavioral and motivation-indicator questions help delve deeper into your candidate’s values, behaviors, and motivations. 

These questions will generally involve asking candidates what action they would take when faced with a particular challenge or task and why. 

Here are some examples of questions you could ask:

  • What do you appreciate most about working in a team?
  • Do you dislike any elements of teamwork?
  • If you had four different projects to simultaneously work on that all had similar deadlines, how would you approach the work and organize your time?
  • What are you most proud of achieving at work to date?
  • What drives you in your day-to-day work?
  • When was the last time you messed up on a project or task, and what did you learn?
  • Is there anything you like about your current colleagues?

For the answers you receive to be helpful in your assessment, you will need to have an interview scorecard to help you assess the responses you receive on a scale to determine how well they fit with your culture. 

4. Give candidates a chance for a self-assessment

Culture fit assessment is not just about finding a candidate whom you believe will fit your organizational culture. It’s essential that they feel like they’ll be a good fit too.

A great way to give them a better feel for this is to take them for a tour around the workplace, let them observe some of your teams in action, and ask current employees questions about their role. Let them sit in on an upcoming meeting, invite them to join you on a team lunch or a pre-employment dinner. 

5. Beware of bias

As we’ve already discussed, bias can be a challenge when it comes to assessing cultural fit. To overcome this, it’s necessary to be methodical about assessing and not doing it based on a feeling or intuition.

Always use pre-defined benchmarks and interview scorecards. Equitable and culturally responsive assessment tests will help you avoid your own biases (whether they’re conscious or subconscious) from affecting your decisions. 

6. Understand the results holistically

Relying on one method alone for a cultural fit assessment will often provide you with little to no data to decide on. This is why using multiple methods is essential. 

For example, have a pre-employment assessment in place, ask cultural fit questions in your interviews, and look at this along with their skills and qualifications for the role.

A performance-values matrix can help you take a holistic view of all the results you obtain and then make a confident and informed decision on each candidate.

Based on Performance-Values Matrix, this matrix shows that in your hiring process, you should look for people who are both strong culture and value fits and high performers.

7. Take a remote setting into consideration

What if your organization largely (or completely) operates remotely? 

If there’s no central office, defining and assessing culture can be even more challenging. This is why it’s crucial to make an extra effort in explaining to candidates what your culture is rooted in and how you work. 

Continue to measure the effectiveness of your cultural fit assessment process

Setting up and conducting an effective cultural fit assessment is the first step to making sure you hire the best candidates for your organization. But it shouldn’t stop here. 

It’s important to continue monitoring how effective your process is. For example, how are the candidates you’re hiring performing and integrating into the team? Are they engaged? Do they feel at home?

Continuing to ask yourself these questions and analyze your findings will help you refine your assessment and ensure you’re making the best hiring decisions.

If you want to learn more about recruitment and selection and future-proof your HR skill set, check out our Talent Acquisition Certification Program!

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