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Humareso Blog

Bullseye: Hiring and Cultural Alignment

Hiring for culture “fit” has, in the last several years, gotten a bad rap.

What started off as a means to determine if a candidate would work well within organizational boundaries, contribute fully, and thrive in their job became shorthand, in many cases, for the concept of “let’s hire people we like.” Admitting to evaluating candidates’ culture fit, even as but one of the criteria in the overall selection process, became verboten.

As well it should have. Because when hiring managers and HR professionals began to equate fit with sameness they were headed on a calamitous journey:

  • “She went to the same school as Bob did!”
  • “I like that he volunteers for the community organization where our CEO is on the Board!”
  • “You know she’s one of Mary’s sorority sisters!”
  • “Oh yeah; we could totally have a beer with that guy!”

Now of course it’s disastrous for all involved when a new hire doesn’t mesh with the company. Perhaps their working style is a mismatch. Maybe their expectations for work-life integration and flexibility are not being met. It’s possible they want to work with team members who share memes all day and none of their co-workers have a sense of humor.

So yes. Culture is critical.

But What Does it Mean?

Most of us have a clear definition of organizational culture; we understand it’s the collective behavior of the people who are part of the organization, as formed by vision, values, norms, systems, beliefs, symbols, and traditions. We know that culture affects the way individual employees and groups interact with each other - as well as how they interact with customers and other stakeholders.

Hiring for fit, however, tends to favor the status quo in an organization. Suddenly, when you glance around your company, you see that everyone seems to be of the same age, has similar backgrounds and experiences, and they all rally around the same interests and activities. (“Hey! We have an axe throwing team!”)

And hiring for fit, even with the best of intentions, tends to negate all the good and important work your organization has done around creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. A workplace where you bring together talented individuals with varied experiences and viewpoints. One where people experience a sense of belonging and connection – even if they don’t want to join your bloody dangerous award-winning axe-throwing team.

So prior to undertaking any activities to bring more people into your company, you’ll be well-served to actually define and articulate your culture; a deep and often soul-searching exercise. But this is the necessary so you can accurately – and truthfully - communicate with both candidates and employees. This does NOT equate to printing your company values on posters and hanging them in your employee break room.

It does, however, include asking yourself questions such as “are these stated values actually present in our workplace?” and “what sorts of things are influencing the behavior we see amongst our employees?”

Culture and Hiring

Now often, during the hiring process, the evaluation for cultural alignment is one-sided and proportionally askew.

The candidate, being a diligent sleuth, visits your company website where Mission, Vision and Values are listed. They may see some rah-rah messaging and pictures showing employees volunteering in the community, enjoying the annual employee picnic, and smiling at each other while seated around a conference table. They undoubtedly consume the standard propaganda:

  • “We work hard and play hard!”
  • “We’re really like a family around here.”
  • “We like to have fun!”
  • “Flexibility is important and we back that up with our policies and benefits.”

On the other hand, the hiring manager, has a pre-determined mindset of how they intend to ascertain if the candidate will fit-in-with-the-team. They have a set of poorly-designed questions they’re convinced will find the hidden motivations and work habits of each candidate:

  •  “Would you describe yourself as an introvert or extrovert?”
  • “How do you prefer to communicate with your co-workers?”
  • “How do you handle stress or tight deadlines?”

Hiring managers spend a lot of time gathering information…and nowhere near enough time providing information.

Communicating your UNIQUE Culture

But hear me out…

What if you, as the hiring manager or HR professional, spent a good bit of time at the early stages of the talent attraction process telling your candidates some of the reasons they may NOT want to come work for you?

I’m not saying you should make your workplace sound like the pits of the underworld (unless it is), but rather you should tell the 100% truth (early on!) so that candidates can self-select out of the process if your job, company, and expectations don’t match up with their needs, work style or interests.

So rather than saying “we work hard and play hard!” (that’s what’s on your website after all!) what if you told the truth:

 “You know Bob, here at Acme, Inc. we expect hard work and reward

accordingly at annual review time. We deal with shifting deadlines - often

at the last minute. That means you’ll regularly work 50-55 hours per week

and quite often a few hours on the weekends. We can’t guarantee any

schedule adjustments for long days or weekends; the work expectations

just come with the territory.”


Oof (you’re thinking); no one will want the job! But I can guarantee you someone will want the job. The person who thrives on deadlines and adrenaline. The person who doesn’t mind long days or working on the weekends. The person who heard you say hard work is “rewarded” when annual performance reviews are conducted.

The person who will align with your culture.

As for the candidate who doesn’t want to work in this type of culture? They’ll remove themselves from the process – which is precisely what you want them to do.

Because ultimately, hiring for cultural alignment, means ensuring that both the organization and the candidate have all the necessary information to make an informed decision.



Interested in delving a bit further into conversations about culture? Join us for a FREE #TalentTalk webinar – Your Culture Brand - on Wednesday, May 24th from 1 PM ET – 1:30 PM ET. Register HERE.