As workplace structures evolve, finding candidates who are the right “cultural fit” is now a top priority of recruiters.
In the business world (and in life), we tend to gravitate toward people similar to us. Our hiring practices are no exception -- if you’re an introvert, you might find extroverted candidates off-putting. A detail-oriented recruiter might be uncomfortable hiring an abstract thinker.
However, seeking cultural fit doesn’t mean hiring clones. In fact, research shows that diverse teams actually perform better than like-minded ones. It’s vital to be able to recognize a strong fit for your company, even when a candidate’s personality and ideas might be far different from your own.
Finding the right cultural fit
There’s no denying that cultural fit is important but make sure you actually know what it is before judging candidates. It’s easy to mistake cultural fit for personal biases -- just because you wouldn’t mind being stuck in an airport with a candidate doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a great fit for your company.
A candidate’s approach shouldn’t be so divisive that it creates rifts among employees, but you shouldn’t be afraid to hire somebody whose personality clashes with your own. If you perceive that a candidate would make a meaningful contribution to your company while maintaining decorum, that candidate might be a cultural match.
Here are four ways to determine whether a candidate might be a good fit for your company:
1. Differentiate between the person and the job.
Your applicant is not interviewing to be your best friend; he’s interviewing to be a great contributor to your company. Never lose sight of this during the interview. What you like about a candidate personally cannot trump his potential as an employee.
2. Have candidates take a personality assessment.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask off-the-wall questions.
As long as you don’t ask prohibited questions during the interview process, it’s your prerogative to ask candidates about anything from their appreciation for soccer to their favorite foods.
Related: 5 Questions That Reveal Whether a Job Candidate Is Startup Material
Interviewees prepare for interviews by rehearsing boilerplate responses to conventional questions. Get a real impression of who they are as people by steering conversations toward unexpected topics. The ability to take the unexpected in stride is a plus, even if their hobbies and interests are different from your own.
4. Give applicants a chance to lead the conversation.
We’ve all been to interviews where the interviewer sticks to an approved list of 10 questions and treats it as a strict Q&A session between the interviewer and interviewee. While this might be the most efficient way to churn through questions, it can only tell you so much about the person.
Instead, hand the interviewee the keys. See how he communicates without prompts or guides. This is certainly a greater challenge than offering a distinct question to answer, and it can provide an opportunity for vibrant personalities to shine. If interviewees have difficulty conversing with you of their own accord, that can be a sign that their personalities don’t fit the position.
Cultural fit clearly plays a pivotal role in today’s hiring process, but that doesn’t mean you should hire clones of your existing staff. Differing backgrounds lead to positive, productive innovations and exchanges of ideas. Once you truly understand your company’s culture, make sure you’re focused on it -- not your personal biases -- when vetting candidates.