Screening for Personality: Finding the Right Fit for Your Culture

This is obviously a hot topic. A simple Google search of the phrase ‘hiring employees to fit your company culture’ yields more than 24 million results. It seems everyone is an expert, or wants to be one, on this crucial hiring conundrum. There is A LOT of information to sift through so we did the hard work for you. Here is a roundup of the Top Five Things To Consider When Building a Culture-Based Workforce.

1.) Culture First, Pedigree Second

Who doesn’t want an Ivy Leaguer with knockout credentials and experience? We’d say that sounds awesome most of the time – on paper. But what happens when that highbrow dude(tte) swaggers into your office thinking he/she already owns the place? We’ll tell you. Discord. Hurt feelings. Low morale. Indignation. The list goes on. Consider this statement from Nancy Rothbard, an associate professor of management at The Wharton School that ran in this CNNMoney/Fortune article: “Cultural fit is incredibly important on a candidate’s abilities to use his skills. You have a positive effect through skills, but culture completely cancels that out.” So the next time you’re choosing between candidates, look at more things than pedigree. We’re not saying degrees and work experience aren’t important and we’re not saying that culture should win out every time. Think of them as two separate dancers, who, when they come together, perform a seamless routine that leaves everyone wowed.

2.) You Can’t ‘Test’ For Culture

Resumes won’t cut it. See above. Just because a person seems to be worldly and intelligent doesn’t mean he acts that way.

Interview questions won’t cut it. Most candidates have been through enough interviews that they know what you want to hear. It’s lip service.

Here’s what you can do. Psychometric tests are increasingly popular. They measure traits like personality, attitude, motivation. Background checks will confirm or refute a person’s honesty and integrity. They are an essential tool to ensuring you’re hiring someone who is trustworthy and safe. Detailed job descriptions help candidates weed themselves out. Specific job tasks and culture-related descriptions like “team oriented” or “independently driven” will tip job seekers off to what it’s really like to work there. Use recommendations and referrals wisely. Your current employees probably have friends who are similar in nature, possibly even talent. Why not let them promote open positions among their circles? It’s a direct gateway to a potential cultural match.

3.) Don’t Expect Change

We all know the story of a woman who married a man she thought would change. Maybe he never put his dishes in the dishwasher before and she thought, for sure, that once they had nice, new plates from their registry that he would, certainly, put his dishes in the dishwasher. Guess what? Ten years in and he still claims he doesn’t know how to open the dishwasher.

The lesson is this: most people won’t change. Even if they want to. Even if you want them to. Trying to change someone’s innate characteristics and traits is next to impossible. They were, most likely, born that way. It’s OK to accept a candidate for who she is and decide she’s not the right fit for your company. It’s also OK for job seekers to know the circumstances under which they work best and look for a company who can provide that. Don’t enter into a commitment where you’re hoping the other person will change. You’ll end up disappointed.

4.) Learn Some Corporate Culture Clues

We mentioned interview questions in point #2 in our top five list. Yes, for the most part, standard interview questions won’t tell you if a candidate will jibe in your office. There are, however, questions that can home in on a candidate’s personality. Rhonda Ness, a manager of recruiting services at Insperity, outlined some of these questions in this blog post:

  • Share a time with me when you were working on a team. What was your part? How were you successful in working with your colleagues?
  • Share an experience with me when you were targeting your next promotion.

Sheila Margolis, another well-known corporate culture author, shares these questions in her post, Hiring for Culture Fit:

  • What causes matter to you?
  • What issues are you drawn to and personally care about?
  • What do you aspire to do in your life through your work?
  • Why do you want to work in this industry?

What are some of your top culture clue questions? We’d love to share them with our readers!

5.) Define Your Culture

If you’ve been reading this thinking, “Yeah! Great points. I totally want to do this,” but you’re not even sure what your corporate culture is, then you have some work to do. The Bridgespan Group is a great place to start. This is an organization that not only has the pedigree (two Harvard Business School case studies), but a clearly defined culture (they work with mission-driven organizations and non-profits to help eliminate larger societal issues like poverty). They are a good example of a business who knows who they are and what type of people they want to work with.

Lucky for you, they’re also gangbusters at teaching companies how to create and build culture. Here are The Bridgespan Group’s top categories to examine before building your culture:

  • Work Style
  • Professional Opportunities and Advancement
  • Work Hours and Commitment to Work
  • Architecture, Aesthetics, Atmosphere

Click here to read the full post (it’s really long but worth it).

What steps did you take to implement and build your corporate culture? How do you hire the right people? Are background checks a part of your hiring routine? Is this too many questions???

Give us a shout in the comments below. We love having a dialogue with you and we’re always ready and willing to answer your questions about background screening.

This entry was posted in General, Human Resources by Patricia Carlson. Bookmark the permalink.

Patricia Carlson is a content writer who specializes in B2C and B2B inbound marketing. She blogs regularly for clients about the background screening and finance industries, and generates newsletters, white papers and email campaigns for a variety of businesses. Patricia also produces a heavy rotation of editorial material for home design, law enforcement, and family magazines. She’s been writing professionally for more than a dozen years, and for Active Screening for more than two of those. Check out LinkedIn for a roster of Patricia's clients and links to published works. When she’s not interviewing sources or researching trends, she’s living a fast-paced Florida life questioning the antics of her two young children, partner and mischievous cat. Patricia loves to talk tennis and TV on Twitter - give her a shout @pattycfreelance.
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