How to Hire Employees for Cultural Fit

There are lots of ways to define company culture. The simple answer is “Company culture is a set of shared values and expectations.”

From a more professional standpoint, and according to, company culture “refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company’s culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, and treatment of clients, client satisfaction and every other aspect of operations.

Everybody knows this situation: you have an interview with a potential employee and they have a fantastic resume, lots of skills that you are looking for and he is a brilliant during the interview. Yet, somehow after he join the company he is not performing as you expected. His working style and behavior are inconsistent with the values and expectations of your organization. You start wondering if you made a mistake, how you made the wrong choice, and what happened to the man from the interview.

You can avoid this situation by taking your organization’s cultural fit into account during the recruitment process and focusing more on how the candidate is going to be in line with company culture and values.

During your recruitment process, companies are not only looking for the right skills and experience, they are trying to evaluate if the candidate will fit into the company culture. And because we are spending almost a third of our lives at work and around our colleagues, it’s important for employees to be working in an environment we enjoy and to be a part of a culture that is going to help us grow.

 Our number one priority is company culture. Our whole belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff, like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand, will just happen naturally on its own. 
– Tony Hsieh, Zappos 

The reason why I mentioned Zappos is not that I just like them, but because they are bold enough to try new things, and as a company, they really value cultural fit. In fact, they value it so much, Zappos will pay new hires a $2,000 bonus to leave if they are not fully confident the company is right for them.

People who are not culturally fit for a company are like sand in the motor. They can easily slow the company down, stop it for some time or worst of all, break it. When you make a wrong hire, it can cost you not only money, but possibly your people because they are going to be frustrated by the toxic environment that the wrong hire creates. These days, companies can’t afford hiring mistakes like wrong hires, which are costly and can affect the morale of the whole team. As an employer doing interviews, interview on core value fit.

Why is Company Culture Important to Your Success?

Every great company culture starts with great core values. Typically, values come from the top (CEO, VP, Directors, Managers etc.), and the culture will develop through the actions of all people within the company. A strong company culture is associated with many positive outcomes like happy employees, more productive employees, and higher retention. Recruitment and good company culture are the perfect match. Your company culture is about the brand image. How candidates see you is going to affect them in either a positive or negative way.

Companies that take culture seriously are those who actively market their culture to candidates while their employees act as brand ambassadors. By having a positive approach towards your people and sharing your company culture and values, your company will attract the people who believe in the same values as you. Having a strong company culture also discourages people who are not going to succeed in your company from applying.

What to Do?

During the interview, always be thinking of your other employees. Keep in mind that studies show diverse groups function more effectively. Fight the urge to only hire people you feel personal connections with. Try to hire people that believe in the same values as you and try to avoid hiring people that act like you. Never forget that the most important asset that any business/organization has is people. Even if you are see some candidate as the perfect fit, they could be the person to destroy your team. If you have team full of team players and your potential employee gives you indication that they prefer to work alone, you should continue with the search and not hire this person. It’s better to slowly hire, quickly fire, and take your time next time to ensure you’re getting the right person.

To judge fit, interviewers commonly relied on chemistry. The best way I could describe it, one member of a law firms hiring committee told me, is like if you were on a date. You kind of know when theres a match. Many used the airport test. As a managing director at an investment bank put it, Would I want to be stuck in an airport in Minneapolis in a snowstorm with them? (reference from

How to Prevent a Bad Hire?

When you deal with a bad hire, try to document what went wrong and when you make a mistake. Make sure that your future steps will prevent a similar problem.

There are three simple steps to avoiding a bad hire:

  • Always be clear about company’s values and culture.
  • Always ask questions about culture like “How does our culture compare to the last place you worked?
  • Let candidates ask questions about your culture.

If you hired someone who is simply a bad fit, they will either realize their performance is not a high enough caliber and leave, or you will notice they are not what you thought they were and terminate them. If this happens, don’t look for excuses. These things happen from time to time in every company. We are all humans who make mistakes, but we also learn from our mistakes. It’s better to accept it and end the employment as soon as possible before investing too much money and time to trying to fix the problems that bad hires cause.

If you think about the time you are going to spend with finding the solutions to problems created from a bad hire, you will see that it’s better to invest your time in searching for a replacement. Certain company cultures really motivate some people while demotivating others and you certainly want an employee who is going to add to your company culture, not make it worse and cause more problems.

As a candidate, always do you research before you accept an offer. Every company has a career page about how cool they are, but not every company is going to be the right company for you. If you are not part of the right company culture, it is going to affect you negatively. If you are not happy, you’re less productive, which could affect your personal brand and affect your next career. You could be a super start in one company, but the second company could demotivate you to the point that you become a low performer. Even worse, the next company could see you as a bad hire based on your most recent performance.

Company culture can vary from department to department, and even from manager to manager, so as a company you need to be consistent. Every person at the company should be aligned with company culture and values. If you have multiple offices, don’t forgot to invest time in checking if the company culture is the same in every location and that all employees understand the company values. To the outside world, you are one company and one team, so you need to act like it, no matter the location.

Is it Really Important to Hire People for a Cultural Fit?

From my point of view, it is important but not the most important thing that you need to focus on during the interviews. I think it is wise not to look for a duplicate of your current employees, because you can overlook talented candidates that will be able to bring the fresh perspective that every company needs. But always try to focus on team players, because as you know there is no “I” in team and your corporation is not a one man show. The success of the company is made by a team of people.