Beyond the Resume: The Basics of Hiring for Culture Fit (Part 3 of 3)


You’ve made it. Having read about the history and limitations of resumes in part one, and having delved into the best way to use a modern CV in part two, you’ve arrived at the third and final installment of our resume deep dive, in which we won’t be talking much about resumes at all.

We’ll instead be focusing on an ever more important consideration in the hiring process, which just happens to be one that a resume can’t shine much light on: culture fit.

The risk of relying on resumes

Statistically speaking, 80% of turnover is the result of bad hiring decisions. It’s quite a remarkable and deeply concerning statistic: four out of every five hires perhaps weren’t the best choice for the job.

The reason that many of these bad decisions were made? They were based on nothing more than a resume, which doesn’t reveal much if anything about an individual’s personality, character, values, work ethic, or ambition. In short, you’re unlikely to see the potential issues of any candidate if you focus solely on their resume. After all, they’re trying to put themselves in the best light, not the most genuine.

Modern companies have come up with what they see as an antidote to these bad decisions: hiring for culture fit.

What is culture fit, and how do you achieve it?

An important caveat before we go any further: culture fit is not about employing people who look, talk, think, and act just like you. In a business setting, diversity is endlessly more valuable than homogeneity, a point proved by study after study.

For most companies, culture fit is instead about ensuring that your team is on the same page and that they work towards the same goals in the most efficient and effective way possible. It’s about being clear about your goals, values, and expectations, and finding team members who are prepared to live and breathe them.

Ensuring culture-fit alignment in team members can be achieved by:

  • Developing and communicating your organization’s goals and mission.
  • Establishing your values, living by them as leaders, and bringing your team into alignment around them.
  • Offering guidance and feedback to those who don’t buy-in. If an individual isn’t meeting expectations, explain why, ask if they are experiencing any issues, and give them time to adjust.
  • Putting yourself in your employee’s shoes. Get to know your workers: their personalities, personal goals, and the pressures that they are under.

Tell-tale signs of a culture misfit

Just as important as knowing what culture fit is, is knowing what culture fit isn’t. The cold, hard truth is that certain individuals will never ‘click’ with your culture, and that’s fine. What’s not fine is for these workers to negatively affect other team members or the culture that you’re working so hard to build. Workers who don’t align with or buy into your culture are generally quite easy to identify, but look for the following tell-tale signs:

  • They opt out of discretionary company activities, both large and intimate.
  • They have a high rate of absenteeism.
  • They don’t thrive when offered autonomy or reduced oversight.
  • They don’t embrace your cultural values.
  • They consistently perform below expectations.
  • They are frustrated by rules, processes, and structures that don’t seem to bother others.
  • They continually make choices that don’t align with your company goals and mission.
  • Their presence contributes to a toxic work environment.
  • They are unable to align with moral or ethical standards.

Prevention is the best cure

As a recruiter, you should be doing all that you can to reduce the 80% of turnover that is currently attributed to bad hiring decisions. Offering up candidates that align with your client’s culture is key to that quest – as your doctor always tells you, prevention is the best cure.

“I want to make sure a person is a culture fit or a culture add,” says Leslie Vickery, CEO & Founder of ClearEdge Marketing. “For me, it’s culture over experience. They need to bring grit, be a keen learner, eager and hungry, and align with our values: command the space, inspire loyalty, push the edge, and bring the spark.”

Understanding whether a candidate ticks all these boxes is a matter of leaning on some of the techniques discussed in part two: checking their online presence, taking a deep dive into their LinkedIn interactions, and if all looks good, meeting with them one-on-one.

“Do they offer all that we’re after when we meet with them?” Vickery continues. “In searching for that answer, I always trust my gut.” Other employers might use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or some other form of personality test to get a better sense of how an individual would fit within their team.

Resumes are a tool, not the whole tool belt

Resumes aren’t dead. They continue to be relevant in an ever more complex and technology-driven world. But it’s fair to say that they aren’t the be-all and end-all hiring tool that they perhaps once were.

Resumes remain an excellent screening tool, giving you access to critical information that can help you form a (very basic) opinion on the suitability of an individual for a given job. Recruiters and employers just need to understand the inherent limitations of the CV and ensure that they always work within them.

Do that, and the humble resume can look forward to a happy future.

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