Here's How The "Not a Culture Fit" Excuse is Costing Your Company

June 30, 2014 at 2:10 PM by Rob Stevenson

You've found a candidate who soars through the interview process. They're articulate, talented, have the Screen_Shot_2014-06-30_at_1.26.02_PMperfect experience, and aced the interview project you assigned. You're off prepping their offer letter, right? 

Not necessarily. Particularly at young companies, top candidates are often passed over due to an amorphous, hard to define and impossible to prepare for standard: culture fit. Maybe they over dressed for the interview (oh, the horror of wearing a suit!), rubbed someone the wrong way with a comment, failed the "Would I go have a beer with this person?" test, or worse, just left a bad gut feeling. Either way, there are dozens of unwritten rules you may be following in your hiring practices, which could potentially result in a huge pool of untapped talent. Here's a few ways to tell if your cultural assessment is biased, and even if it's not, why you should still make an offer.


The After Work Beer Test

When assessing cultural fit, many ask themselves "is this the kind of person I would want to grab a beer with after work?" The limitations of this standard make my eye twitch. Besides the obvious reasons someone might not be an ideal drinking buddy (they don't drink, they have a family, they have a long commute, they have commitments, interests, or hobbies outside of the office), you're supposed to be building a company, not recruiting a beer pong team. Do you want someone who can learn a new coding language in her sleep and help you ship your next launch without a hitch, or do you want someone who can comment on the Sportscenter Top 10?


Cultures Evolve

Rarely are cultures so set in stone that they're immune to change and development. As a result, thinking of fitting in to a culture as either black or white is short-sighted and close-minded. Every new personality in the office will have some sort of effect, so consider how the culture might shift were that person in the office 5 days a week. If you can envision their impact and still see an office of happy, motivated workers, you shouldn't hold back an offer.

Further, (and for the billionth time) diversity is good. Here's a study demonstrating that diverse teams are more profitable. Here's another one showing diverse teams are more innovative and creative. Here is yet another study proving that diverse teams are more happy and productive.

Still want to cling to your fledgling culture? 


What does Culture Assessment Look Like?

If culture fit is truly important to you, how are you going about assessing it?  It seems that other areas have a tangible, rubric-like series of expectations, such as examples of previous work or performance on interview projects, yet there's no standard for culture. If it could be the difference between a hire and a pass, it's too important to be left to your gut. Getting to know candidates on a more personal level is one way to learn how their personality would impact the office, and is generally good recruiting practice either way. At Entelo, we regularly hold networking events, where prospective candidates can interact with a variety of team members (not just those they'd interview with). This allows candidates to switch out of interview mode and can demonstrate how potential co-workers get along, even if they're very different on paper.


Next time you're concerned that someone's not a cultural fit, think of the big picture and decide whether that's truly a bad thing. Culture grows, develops, ebbs and flows, just like your business.

How do you go about assessing culture fit? Leave a comment or tweet @EnteloRob!

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