Finding the Right ‘Pop’ in Company Culture

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Finding the Right ‘Pop’ in Company Culture

Interviews are like first dates both parties are feeling each other out to determine if the other person fits their core values. If you’re good at asking the right questions to a potential employee, you will yield answers that truly get to the bottom of whether or not the candidate will be a fit for your company culture . In the dating world, the people who are most compatible go on a second date, and hopefully start a long relationship. In the hiring world, interviewees who seem compatible will continue in the interview process and hopefully become a loyal employee.

While it’s illegal to ask some personal questions during an interview, it’s becoming more commonplace to try and learn more about a person, rather than just about their qualifications. In the December 2012 issue of the American Sociological Review, Northwestern professor Lauren Rivera found the organizations are making hiring decisions more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners. Thus, “off-topic questions” have become central to the hiring process.

Why Company Culture is Important

Have you ever had a new employee leave shortly after starting? Or have a new person not mesh well with long-standing employees and create an uncomfortable environment? In both cases, hiring a bad cultural fit is detrimental to your bottom line.

Screening potential bad culture fits will save the company money, increase productivity and enhance morale. Training a new employee and setting up benefits is costly for a business; to lose a new employee in the first year over a bad cultural fit will cost the company money for not just losing the employee, but also for finding a replacement. On top of this, terminating an employee can dampen the mood in the office.

Finally, according to Glassdoor, job seekers cite company culture as their second-highest priority, almost tied with salary. This means that sharing information about the culture and discussing company culture during the interview process encourages buy-in from future employees helping to weed out people who clearly won’t fit in with the company’s work style.

What questions should you ask? It’s hard to generalize; the best way to determine what questions make sense for you to ask is to first identify the company culture.

Defining Company Culture

Culture is a powerful human resources buzzword that has taken off in the last few years. While it’s used frequently, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to define company culture. Even if two companies serve the same industry, are located in the same city and have the same number of employees, their cultures will be different.

The first place to look when defining your culture is core values. Do you mention your customers first or your employees first? Do you mention career development, or is your focus on sales? Do you even have public-facing core values? While these details may seem small, they tell a lot about your culture.

You also need to evaluate your environment, and be honest about it. Are employees grinding all day long during busy season, or do you have a very relaxed workday throughout the entire year? Does your office have an open layout or do employees have offices based on title? Again, these things define the experiences of your employees and will help you find the right fit.

You can also take a few simple steps to honestly define your company culture. Conduct an anonymous survey throughout your company to encourage your employees to define the culture as they perceive it. Take that information and compare it to the company’s core values; if they are aligned, leadership has done a good job of influencing company culture. If they are not aligned, the leadership team should either reconsider the core values or make it a point to more effectively communicate those core values within the company so they become part of everyone’s belief system.

Matching core values and employee’s perceived company culture can help you define your true culture.

How to Find the Best Cultural Fit

Once you define your company culture, write a series of questions you think will generate conversation about who the potential employee is, not what their résumé says. The biggest mistake you can make here is asking an interviewee what kind of culture they prefer. For young applicants, they might not have had enough work experience to answer this. For all other applicants, they might give a general answer, the worst being, “I can adapt to any culture.”

The interviewer must get the conversation going. It can start with a simple, “What’s the last book you read?” Or, “What is one thing that really ticks you off in an office?” Looking at the types of environments a candidate has been most comfortable in the past will also tell you a lot about whether this person might fit your company culture. These strategies may not provide insight into whether or not they hit deadlines on time, but they will help assess if they will be around years after you hire them. Additionally, adding a pre-employment behavior assessment will help determine a candidate’s personality, integrity and abilities, resulting in smarter hiring decisions. Use these assessments to benchmark your current employees. You will gain tremendous insight about what makes your people happy to come to work every day.

It’s clear to see that while finding the right culture fit isn’t always easy, it’s critical for every company to consider during the hiring process. Basing hiring decisions partly on how an interviewee responds to culture questions is becoming part of the hiring routine.

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