When you have the task of “hiring a specialist”, verifying a candidate’s hard skills and knowledge is a piece of cake – the candidate knows it or not. Everything else, including cultural fit, is much more sophisticated and nuanced, it is perhaps much more like a going on a date.
How to find your date?
First, you want to hear “I find you very attractive”; who doesn’t? In a competitive recruitment market you need to start with presenting your company in a positive manner – making it attractive. Cultural fit should always play a key role in the way you attract candidates to your company so it is important to showcase your company culture, but also to provide a true and accurate picture. If your first thought is to have an employer branding campaign, the second should be who is going to do that? And that doesn’t mean searching for a list of marketing agencies.
What's more, your agency doesn't need to know what EVP (Employ Value Proposition) is to build a great, reliable campaign. Based on my experience, the most successful campaigns have been led by employees, software development experts, who took part in photo sessions, created short movies, slogans for an outdoor campaign and social media memes. Employees feel the company culture like no one else and can easily identify what is important from an employees’ perspective – providing true insight. They are the best people to reinforce the employer’s brand value.
Other ways to provide an insight into your company culture to a prospective employee is during an open day where prospective employees can just come and see how your company works, how you manage projects, what roles you have or even the style of the office. There is one rule to a successful open day – showcase your company as it really is.
Do you like blind dates?
Agree or not, but I believe that a first date is more likely to be successful when it's not a blind date. For sure, this is also how it works with interviews. Working in HR, your role is to make the first meeting with a candidate as comfortable as possible. You know the way the interview will be conducted and what is expected from the candidate, so why don't you share this knowledge with candidates? Create a guide, providing basic information for the candidate (like information about dress code and who they are going to meet) that will help them give their best during an interview.
With an e-mail confirming the date of the interview, you can attach materials describing the role you are going to talk about. The more candidates know about what to expect, the more relaxed they will be – making it far easier to identify whether a prospective candidate will be the right cultural fit for your organisation.
It's worth remembering that checking the cultural fit isn't a simple, one way test. The price for mismatching is high for both parties, so both company and candidate should check if the company culture fits. How do you do that?
The solution couldn’t be easier - being honest with candidate results in candidates being honest with you. I have experience of a candidate who resigned from taking part in the final stage of the recruitment process as a direct result of seeing his potential manager wearing a Bart Simpson t-shirt during the interview. The candidate decided that our culture was too informal for him - and I seriously respect his decision. Painting the grass greener doesn't work – if the interview was formal in a company with informal culture, the resignation would happen anyway, but at a much later stage, causing a far greater business impact.
This looks at how candidates assess cultural fit, but what about the recruiter? The good news is that you don’t need any sophisticated tools or questionnaires to check cultural fit. Indeed, with this honest approach you don`t even need a competency model to conduct a successful recruitment process. Values are absolutely enough and much more agile when connected with getting the right people in the room during the recruitment process. An HR specialist should be present during whole interview, even during the technical discussions – for example a two hour discussion over the finer details and the differences in features sets of Umbraco and Kentico. The HR specialist will be able to identify cultural fit throughout the whole process as he or she will really feel the company DNA. From that point it can be a joint discussion between the team lead/potential manager and HR – covering both technical and cultural bases.
One thing worth remembering when you conduct an interview as a recruiter is don’t expect the candidate to recite the whole company history. This doesn’t give an indication as to the level of motivation to work at your company. What you should expect, and work towards, is that this conversation will be balanced because the candidate has as much to say as you do. It’s a dialogue, not an examination. The main aim of a recruitment process should be to show candidates what real life in the open position looks like – whether that is from a tailor-made assessment centre session with tasks copied from real life, a description of the company and its culture or set tasks during interview etc.
Take the time
Take time to identify whether a candidate has the right cultural fit. One of our practices is inviting potential employees to experience the company for much longer than a standard interview. There is nothing special planned, just a simple tour of the office, chat with coffee in the kitchen with potential team members, followed by lunch with a few employees. The most important aspect of this process is that it provides the candidate with an opportunity to talk with people who already work for the company in the most informal circumstance possible.
Universal date strategy
Being transparent with candidates from the start pays dividends in the long-term. You are more likely to source suitable candidates to join the team, and the company culture will be easier to manage as it won’t run the risk of being diluted. That said, the HR department’s work connected with cultural fit continues after the recruitment process – it is an ongoing cycle throughout each employee’s life at the company and should be core to all HR activity. You can't spread company culture via a handbook, so you need to deliver a good induction process and have the right balance between new comers and senior employees in the team.