How can you add more context to your hiring?

Written by
Tom Marsden

08 Jul 2016

08 Jul 2016 • by Tom Marsden

Due to the pace of change we’re seeing in nearly all business sectors, this era is over. Today’s businesses are often unaware of what skills they will need to recruit for in the future, and what the supply of those skills will look like. Technological change is a major driver of this phenomenon. Ask any consultant focused on digital transformation and you are likely to hear the same thing: “digital transformation is not constrained by technology, it’s constrained by people”. We increasingly need to recruit people to integrate into a fast-paced team: according to McKinsey, 40% of jobs in developed economies involve a high degree of collaboration.

How equipped are we to meet this requirement for agility? As Harvard Business Review research points out, “only a few companies excel at one or more aspects of the hiring process, and just a handful come anywhere close to a hiring ‘gold standard’”. Part of the problem is that we aren’t robustly assessing the right areas. Organisations need to reevaluate how they assess potential candidates, giving more weight to cultural and team fit as a way of bringing additional context to their hiring decisions.

What exactly is cultural fit?

Cultural fit’ may not be the best term, as it’s not universally understood. Simply put, cultural fit refers to how a candidate fits in at the job level (the traits required to do the job), team level (the shared values required to work well with team members), and organisational level (how well the candidate matches with the company’s culture). This is important: employees who fit well with their job, team and organisation have greater job satisfaction, are more likely to remain in their organisation, and show superior job performance.

How can cultural fit add context?

All too often, talent managers misunderstand how to assess cultural fit. If you take a superficial approach, you’re likely only to reinforce your own - and your company’s - unconscious biases: it’s imperative not to short-cut the interview process. Everyone hiring should conduct a rigorous cultural assessment. This should include human judgement, turbo-charged with insightful use of analytics.

Numerous studies highlight that, while it’s best to avoid lengthy assessment procedures with up to a dozen interviews, it’s very beneficial to have 4-5 sessions with a candidate to help both the organisation and the candidate understand each other well enough to make an informed decision. 

The culture Interview

At least one of the key stages in assessing a candidate should be a culture interview. Although it’s great to spend time informally with a candidate, this isn’t a culture interview. A culture interview should be a structured interview where each candidate is assessed against common criteria. Time and again structured interviews have proven to be more predictive than unstructured interviews in predicting desired outcomes. A culture interview needs to start with clear and honest definition of the company culture the candidate is being assessed against. Don’t fall into the temptation to “sell” your business in the best possible light and mislead a candidate. Be robust and honest about the culture they are joining.

Data: another voice in the room

Analytics is starting to be used in HR to help bring additional proof points to the table when assessing who to hire. Algorithmic approaches to hiring are now on the market that make compatibility assessments between different people. Algorithms have the key benefit of being transparent: it’s important to understand and challenge what is driving the algorithm. If mistakes are made, people can review what went wrong, and make adjustments. This couldn’t be more different to the opaque ‘gut feel’ approach prevalent in today’s culture fit assessments.

In the coming years, organisations will be faced by the challenge of recruiting into a fast changing, agile work environment. Hiring managers and talent managers need to place a greater priority on assessing cultural fit to avoid mistakes. This needs to be be driven by human judgement and the best analytical tools.