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Hiring for Culture Fit with Technology: What You Need to Know

Here’s a question for you: How’s your company culture? Now don’t answer immediately, think about it for a second first. Right, so how is your culture really ? Chances are you believe it’s great, but your employees may think otherwise. Do you measure your company’s culture on a regular basis to get some stats on where you’re at? If you don’t, it’s probably about time you started to. Measuring culture is crucial for more reasons than one. Not only does it help you to keep your current employees happy – and prevents them from leaving – it also tells you exactly what things to look for in a new hire. If you have a clear image of your culture, you can make sure you hire people that will fit right into your company culture and as a result are more likely to stay.

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The only problem here is that hiring for culture fit has always been the domain of the ‘gut feeling’. Luckily, recent developments in HR Tech make it possible to power this solely gut-feeling approach with data.

Interesting stuff, right? We thought so too, which is why today we take a look at how to establish a culture fit through data: Here’s what you need to know.


A quick reminder on what we’re talking about here, namely company culture. Think of it as an organisation’s personality; a combination of different elements such as its work environment, values and goals on the one hand, and its ethics, people and expectations on the other. A company’s culture as such is a bit of an intangible concept, something to be experienced in order to fully understand what it’s like.

You may wonder why this matters so much. Todd McKinnon, CEO of Okta, put it perfectly: “As your company grows, culture will help keep it on track, steer hiring decisions for the people who will maintain that success and safeguard your company from spiralling into something you don’t recognise.”

Company Culture & the Data Revolution

Regular readers of our HR tech blog are well aware of this, but for the newbies among you; there is a true tech revolution going on in HR. After industries such as marketing and finance, HR is now finally catching up and we see examples of data driven HR all around us. Think of programmatic advertising for job adverts or preselection software for recruitment, among many other data applications. The question is, if a company’s culture really is as intangible as we’ve said it is, how do you measure it? What data can you use to make sure you don’t hire culture misfits? Luckily there are a few ways to assess – and if necessary, improve – culture.

Below, we’ve sketched out a few steps in the hiring process that you can implement to get your hiring more alligned with your culture by using data and gut feeling combined.

First: Have a Defined Culture in Place

Before measuring anything, you need to make sure you and your current employees understand what your culture is about. If they don’t know your company values, there’s nothing to benchmark your applicants against. Sounds obvious, but it’s the first box to tick!

Second: Establish a Preselection Funnel

The next thing that is important, is to have a standardised preselection funnel. One that consists of several steps and that requires input from candidates. In this example, we will use a preselection funnel that consists of a few culture specific interview questions, a personality test, situational judgment games and a video pitch. Each of these four stages can be optimised for your culture and will help assess it in future candidates.

Stage 1: Culture Questions

One way to make sure you – really – find only those people who fit right in, is to ask them a couple of culture questions. Let’s say, your organisation is all about traditions and rituals. You may want to ask applicants things like ‘What’s the first thing you do in the morning?’ to find out more about a person’s habits – if they have any. Or maybe your company is all about a fun, relaxed atmosphere in which everyone talks to everyone, no matter what their position is. In that case you may want to present something like the following to your candidates: ‘Imagine you’re in the elevator with our CEO, he asks you to tell him something funny, what do you say?’. This way candidates get an impression of what your company thinks is important, but they also get motivated to actively think about how their own ideas fit in the culture part of your organisation.

Stage 2: Personality

To assess a culture fit, it’s important to have candidates take a personality test. Characteristics and personality traits you look for in an applicant depend on what is needed for the job of course, but also on what type of people already work for the organisation and the characteristics that match with your culture. One of the most elaborate personality tests at the moment is HEXACO. There are different versions of HEXACO, one with 60 and one with 100 questions. The latter gives a more detailed personality overview, but also takes significantly longer to make. Are you looking for someone with patience? Use the 100!

Stage 3: Situational Judgment Games

The third instalment in this culture assessment funnel are the Situational Judgment Games, where candidates play out real life situations that might occur in everyday office life. SJG’s are handy for a number of reasons. The applicant gets to know the work floor, colleagues and quirky things going on in your organisation and has to respond to things that are going on. Based on their reactions, you’re able to tell whether or not they responded according to your ‘culture code’.

Stage 4: Video Pitch

Last but not least, give applicants the chance to show themselves! Applying for a job should be a two-way street, especially if you have an emphasis on culture fit. If you give applicants the opportunity to show themselves in, for example, a one-minute video, you can assess a number of things. First of all, are the applicants willing to record a video of themselves just for an application process? Yes? You’ve got yourself a motivated candidate here! Second, on video it’s way easier to get an idea of someone’s energy (or lack thereof) and charisma. Finally, it’s nice to give control to the applicant as well. Even if this person (thinks she) did a bad job on the former assessments. A one-minute video is their final moment to shine and really give it all they have.

Current Workforce

Once you have a clear understanding of what your culture is all about and your preselection funnel is in place, it’s time to set a culture benchmark. First up, it’s important to identify your culture ambassadors. You know, those employees that fit your company and culture perfectly. These people will make up your culture benchmark. Once you’ve identified these people, you let them take the previous preselection assessments. Make sure you collect all the data that comes out of this in a data repository.

After letting your current workforce go through the selection funnel, you’ve got your culture benchmark.

New Applicants

Once all these steps are taken and the culture, preselection funnel and benchmark are in place, you can let new applicants go through the funnel as well. Compare all the data with the benchmark set by your culture ambassadors and then assess whether or not a new applicant is a culture fit.

Now compare the scores of the candidates to the benchmark. Here you can see that candidate B is a better culture fit than candidate A.

The Final Preselection Funnel

At Harver, we’ve installed these types of preselection funnels for a lot of organisations out there. One of them is Arvato and we’ve just finished a one minute video overview for you to see what a funnel like this looks like in the end:

In Short

A company’s culture is like it’s a heartbeat, it’s the very core of what your organization stands for. As such, it’s essential to work with people that get this, now and in the future. Although culture is a bit of an intangible concept, it’s possible to assess if an applicant fits culture wise or not. Based on a benchmark created with data from current employees, different elements of a company’s culture can be emphasized. Once they’ve been through the online assessment, it’s as if candidates have spent an afternoon in your office with your team; therefore applicants will know exactly what to expect if they’re hired. What’s more, the candidates you eventually decide to hire are more likely to be a solid fit – skill as well as culture-wise – which is good for your entire workforce and of course your turnover rate.

See cultural fit testing in action.

Learn how a cultural fit test can help you uncover the true values of your candidates.

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