What does hiring for cultural fit really mean, and could it help your tech recruitment?

Every business has its own unique personality and culture. Just like people, no two businesses are the same. Company culture is formed by the people that work there, the management and leadership style, the processes by which work is carried out and the organisation’s values. These aspects work together to influence what it’s like to work for your company. If one is off, it can affect everything else, such as if your leaders are micromanaging teams.

In today’s competitive talent market, your company culture and how you communicate it could be vital to helping you attract candidates who share similar values and are excited by your proposition. Salaries are at a record high, and tech businesses are all innovating in their own way. However, company culture is unique to a business and can be used as leverage to entice top talent into an organisation.

Therefore, as culture becomes a valuable part of talent strategies, we’re investigating what hiring for cultural fit really means and how it can help your tech recruitment.

What is company culture?

Company culture refers to the attitudes and behaviours of a company; it defines the experience of working at an organisation. It has no exact definition because it’s made up of so many different elements, from your company values to day-to-day attitudes, leadership styles to the environment you work in. Company culture is the soul and personality of a business. Contrary to popular belief a few years ago, it’s not defined by putting in a pool table or offering free beers on a Friday. The pandemic has highlighted that gimmicks that may create the illusion of a fun company culture are no longer a reflection of it. Instead, company culture is much more profound. It’s the ecosystem that your business and people need to thrive in, and it develops as your business grows.

For many, the company culture starts with the Employee Value Proposition (EVP). The EVP outlines the offering between employers and employees, highlighting values and missions and what candidates and employees can expect while working there. In truth, there is no one aspect of your EVP that defines company culture, but rather the overall proposition forms the basis, highlighting attitudes and priorities in the workplace and uniting teams on one mission.
It’s no surprise then, that many companies want to hire people to fit this proposition and culture. Currently, 90% of employers say it’s very important to find candidates who are an excellent cultural fit. Many believe that the secret to recruitment success is to hire people who will match the organisation’s personality. Yet it’s not as simple as you’d think, with 73% of professionals have left a job because of poor cultural fit.

What are companies getting wrong when hiring for cultural fit?

In recent years, hiring for cultural fit has become a prominent idea. Hiring for cultural fit means checking that candidates’ working preferences and personal values align with the company you’re working for. However, it’s become more of a social aspect in recent years. Recruiters often hire people that they think will fit in well with existing teams. Therefore, recently hiring for cultural fit means hiring candidates with a personality that complement those already within your organisation.

Needless to say, there are issues with this. Hiring people that are similar to each other is almost as open to interpretation as hiring for cultural fit. Similarities could be personalities, values, age, gender or even background. This means that hiring for cultural fit, when not done correctly, can interfere with diversity plans. If you hire people who are all similar, however, you define this, you’re likely to end up with an incredibly uniform organisation, lacking in diverse opinions and experiences. It can lead to huge problems. When companies reject applicants based on cultural fit and similar aspects to their existing team, they could be perpetuating allegations of racism, ageism, sexism and other discrimination.

As it is currently interpreted, hiring for cultural fit is more hiring to maintain the status quo. When you hire people to ‘fit’, you only ever hire the same person, with the same way of thinking and doing things. It means that ideas are less likely to be challenged, no one will question why you do things in specific ways, and it’s harder for people who don’t necessarily “fit the mould” to break into your organisation or industry. So hiring for cultural fit isn’t just detrimental to the diversity in your business; it will also ruin any chances you have at innovating.

So, how do you hire for cultural fit properly?

To hire for cultural fit, you need to take a deep dive into your organisation. Start by asking what kind of company you wish to become and how you want your culture to be perceived internally and externally? However, it’s also vital to consider the culture you need. As much as we all want to be the laid back, “cool” employer, this won’t help your business succeed in a lot of industries. There’s a reason industries like finance are often target driven and intense; they have to be to keep up with the competition. Building a successful scaleup isn’t just deciding what you’d like to be but establishing what sort of culture will help you keep up with the competition in both the race for talent and the market.

Once you’ve established the culture you both want and need, you need to have uncomfortable conversations with team members to address any issues in your existing company culture to improve it. There’s no use hiring tech talent into a company if the culture isn’t desirable and attractive or doesn’t match the one you sold them. In today’s extra-competitive recruitment market, they’ll move on as soon as they realise your culture isn’t what they expected as there are hundreds more opportunities out there for tech professionals. Therefore, before you can hire for cultural fit, you need to take an honest look at your culture and determine an accurate perception as well as areas for improvement.

You also need to look at the people and skills within your organisation. Establish the personality types you already have within the organisation, whether you’re hiring people from the same backgrounds and networks and unique points of your company culture that will help sell your business to the right person, like if you’re supportive or target driven. This way, you’ll be able to identify personality traits that will succeed in your organisation by enhancing your existing offering, not just falling into the crowd. No one wants to add clashing personalities, but different perspectives, skill sets and experiences can really help to enhance a scaling business and build up a better company culture.

To successfully hire for cultural fit, consider it as hiring to enhance and improve your culture, not just fitting in.

How can hiring for cultural fit help tech recruitment?

Stand out to the right candidates

Firstly, promoting your company culture can help you stand out to the right candidates. In a crowded talent market, making an effort to promote your company culture will add another layer to your employer brand.
Improves the quality of hire.

Promoting your company culture will allow employees to self-select whether they’d be a good fit for your organisation. This means your job adverts appeal to the right type of person who will thrive in your company culture, meaning less time is spent interviewing unsuitable candidates. It also reduces the chance of hiring someone unsuitable and likely to leave as soon as they realise the culture isn’t what they expected, whether it’s too cut-throat, not competitive enough or even toxic.

Improve employee retention

If you hire for cultural fit, find people who will thrive in your environment, bring something new to your team and share your values, retention rates will improve. In addition, you’ll be connecting with candidates emotionally, and your shared mission will add a sense of purpose to their work, enhancing the likelihood of them staying for the long haul.

Improves workplace diversity

When done poorly, with similarity in mind, hiring for cultural fit can hinder diversity efforts. It can prevent diverse applicants from applying to your organisation and lead to high turnovers. Why do we think hiring women in tech is still so difficult? However, hiring for cultural fit properly means you’ll be looking for candidates who can enhance your culture, not just fit in with the crowd, and this could help to improve your diversity. As your culture becomes more open to those outside of your regular network and with different experiences and personality types, it becomes a place where more people can thrive.

If you’re struggling to hire for cultural fit or would like support navigating the tech recruitment landscape, Talent Works can help. Our flexible approach to RPO means recruitment experts can embed themselves into your organisation to get a real feel for the culture and, more importantly, the gaps in the culture. So every business can benefit from an outsiders perspective from time to time.

Plus, we can get to grips with what employees and candidates think of your culture with an in-house research function. We can help you develop and refine your EVP to appeal to more candidates and form the foundation for new and improved company culture.

Contact us to find out more about how we can help you.