How (and why) to hire for fit

An HR team hiring for fit

I once interviewed with a small public relations agency that invited to me attend a media event they were hosting. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they were testing me for fit. In fact, there was another interview candidate at the same event. We both got the job – and I quickly learned how the company’s culture was at the core of their business.

For many businesses, hiring for fit is fast becoming more important than hiring for skill. According to a recent survey, 43 per cent of HR professionals say that cultural fit is the single most important factor when making a hire – though  another recent survey found that 62 per cent of professionals say that finding that cultural fit is difficult.

One example of a business that is successfully putting cultural fit at the core of their hiring process is Mabel’s Labels, a Hamilton, Ontario-based business that sells durable labels for kid’s clothing. It was the first Canadian company to formally adopt a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), where its 45 employees can work from anywhere, anytime, no nine-to-five required.

With this unique strategy in place, finding employees that fit into their unique culture is crucial for success. “We can train people to do a lot of the work but we can’t train for culture fit,” says Julie Cole, Mabel’s vice president and co-founder.

Wondering how you can do the same? Follow these tips to successfully hire for fit:

Interview yourself

The first step towards hiring for fit is identifying what the potential hire will be fitting into: your company’s unique culture or personality.

“People who are currently successful in your company are the key to finding the right kind of new talent. Ask yourself: how do the most successful people in our organization behave?” says Marty Parker CEO of Waterstone Human Capital, an executive search firm that specializes in recruiting for fit.

How do you gather this intel? Parker suggests interviewing staff and identifying five or six common behaviours top performers share.

In fact, Mabel’s did just that when they sought nail down what makes their company unique, and why people like working there. “We spent a lot of time trying to really understand, develop and define what our company core values are,” says Cole. “We went through a long process that involved interviewing staff on every level.”

Bring culture into every conversation

Once Mabel’s identified their company culture and core values, they integrated that knowledge into every step of their hiring process, from the job description and interview questions to the onboarding process.

It also dominates recruitment material, giving candidates a chance to assess themselves for fit before even applying for a job; their career page, for example, goes into great detail on the company’s workplace principles, its ROWE approach, its core values, and more.

Get beyond the job interview

The job interview is still an important part of the process when hiring for fit, but it’s important to go beyond the traditional interview to learn more about the candidate.

“The interview serves as a ‘gut check’ on whether the facts add up, but it’s key to set up time to get beyond the professional and into who they are as a person,” says Parker. “Ask about their interests and passions, what they like to do after work. You can even conduct non-interviews, such as a presentation, or informal meetings like lunches or dinners.”

Mabel’s, for example, builds a relationship with potential employees by using a multi-step hiring process that includes interviews, personality or knowledge testing, and meetings with potential colleagues. Yes, it’s a longer hiring process that involves more time and effort up front, but it can go a long way toward hiring staff the will perform better and stay longer. “If there’s not a culture fit, it costs the company and hurts team morale, so we try to hire slow, and fire fast,” says Cole.

Initiating the process of hiring for fit won’t happen overnight. It takes trial and error to define your organizational culture, and to determine what kind of people will be the best fit for your company. But when your employees love where they work, embrace your company’s values, and want to tell their friends about it, your efforts are sure to pay off.

See also:
What a Calgary microbusiness can teach us about hiring for fit
P.K. Subban: when hiring for fit goes wrong


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