Understanding Why Companies Hire for Culture Fit

by Ashvini on February 16, 2012 · 17 comments

in General

This is a guest post from Sonia Winland .

Finding a job in this economy has become difficult and down- right frustrating for most. During the dot.com boom, finding a job was so easy that all you had to do was reply for a position and receive an on-slot of offers.

These days, finding a job means facing tough competition and fighting the unknown in a tight market. This inherently makes the hiring criteria stricter, even if the minimum requirements haven’t changed. Recently I saw a video of a company that engaged 3 prospective applicants vying for one position. Each applicant was assessed on how well they engaged with a team, problem solving and their ability to work as a team. Even though it didn’t appear to be a hard task, it helped the company measure their thinking ability, personality, how they fit into their culture.

Culture is the foundation of a business, how its run, how each person interacts with each other and how well they work together to get things done. Some might say it is unfair and that job placement should rely solely on experience.

Skills can be taught, but teaching someone to fit into your culture can’t. As much as I can agree, and I can also disagree. Businesses want to know what that an employee can bring to the table. Your experience is spelled out in your resume, but how will it relate to how you interact with your co-workers? Watch this video to see what I mean:

When I worked with one firm, the one thing we wanted most was personality fit. Will this new person be able to take our banter, joking, sometime “bad language” or topic discussed around the office? In this video, each applicant was put into group activities to allow the employer to see the “real person” behind the resume. The activities play an instrumental role, but as time goes by, their true personality comes out and the real interview begins. This video clearly demonstrates they wanted to hang out with each applicant to see how well they interacted with the entire team.

Think about it this way:

When you walk into a room, you are this perfect Onion. As time goes by layers of this of you start to peel off till it reveal your true character. Some of us put on our best face for the interview, but are they getting the real you?

Here is an excellent example about culture and how it will affect their decision on hiring you:

Central Concepts about Culture

Professors Ken Thompson (DePaul University) and Fred Luthans (University of Nebraska) highlight the following seven characteristics of culture through my interpretive lens.

Culture = Behavior. Culture is a word used to describe the behaviors that represent the general operating norms in your environment. Culture is not usually defined as good or bad, although aspects of your culture likely support your progress and success and other aspects impede your progress. A norm of accountability will help make your organization successful. A norm of spectacular customer service will sell your products and engage your employees. Tolerating poor performance or exhibiting a lack of discipline to maintain established processes and systems will impede your success.

Culture is Learned. People learn to perform certain behaviors through either the rewards or negative consequences that follow their behavior. When a behavior is rewarded, it is repeated and the association eventually becomes part of the culture. A simple thank you from an executive for work performed in a particular manner, molds the culture.

Culture is Learned Through Interaction. Employees learn culture by interacting with other employees. Most behaviors and rewards in organizations involve other employees. An applicant experiences a sense of your culture, and his or her fit within your culture, during the interview process. An initial opinion of your culture can be formed as early as the first phone call from the Human Resources department.

Sub-cultures Form Through Rewards.. Employees have many different wants and needs. Sometimes employees value rewards that are not associated with the behaviors desired by managers for the overall company. This is often how subcultures are formed, as people get social rewards from coworkers or have their most important needs met in their departments or project teams.

Getting the job is only half the battle providing you can deal with the slow decision-making process. Companies don’t want to make a mistake and hire someone that only appears to be the real deal. Your resume, only tells half the story. Will you be friend or foe?

About the Author:

Sonia is the creator and founder of LogAllot where she blogs about Marketing, Blogging and Travel tips. She is a blogger, golfer and bass fisher.

About The Author

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Cat Alexandra @ Internet Marketing Success February 24, 2012 at 3:08 am

Hi Sonia,

Nice guest blog. I think that creating productive work environments is a subject that’s not so clear cut. I used to consult on these types of topics in a job I used to work some years back – it can indeed be a dicey subject.

The fact remains that different personality types will either gel or conflict. It’s up to managers to be able to anticipate synergies and head-butting-contests well in advance in order to mitigate issues with personnel and/or human resources. I think that we’ll continue to see more and more companies utilizing applications that take personality types and emotional intelligence into consideration as an integral qualifier for hiring processes.

Nice job on the article!



Sonia March 2, 2012 at 9:15 am

Cat, you hit it on the nail. When I worked for an consulting firm I remember the reasons why some either made the cut or didn’t. Personality was a huge deciding factor and we missed the ball with a few candidates that didn’t last. We had a loud and fun banter about the office and having an employee that didn’t get that made for an odd working environment. Like the people in the video, personality played a huge role in why a certain person was hired over the others. I am sure other factors weighed in, but I know her personality was #1. Thank you so much for your comment.


Sylviane Nuccio February 22, 2012 at 8:42 am

Hey Sonia,

Nice seeing you here. I came across this post of yours through the comment group which I was just invited in. Perfect timing!

Interestingly, I have a recruiting background so, your post theme is no foreign ground to me. Culture is very important and there is no way of knowing someone well enough from a resume or even an hour interview.

I love your onion metaphor. You are right, when we start peeling off things come out. That’s why in business it’s can turn to a bad coworkers and in marriage it’s called divorce :)

Trying to know as much of the culture of a future employee as possible is really a wise thing to do.

I really enjoyed you post, Sonia. Hope I’m not too late here :)


Sonia February 22, 2012 at 10:27 am

Hey Sylviane, never too late to comment and you are always welcomed. I know the feeling on most of what you’re saying and I agree to a certain degree. My ex told me the metaphor about the “onion” and he was right. I do see many young companies (start-ups) doing this type of “fit-testing” than I do more established companies. I think every company have their own method in determining who is the right fit and who isn’t.

Some might deem it unfair and maybe so in certain jobs, but I think the more creative the position the more the fit needs to be spot on for collaboration in the long run. Thanks girl for your valued comment and I am so glad you stopped by to read my post.


Ashvini Kumar Saxena February 20, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Hi Sonia,

Sorry for getting late to this post. But I was sure that I needed to focus to understand the point.
Normally, I am against taking any objective type of tests because they bring in the bias of the tester into the system. Also the candidate may not be prepared or inclined towards this kind of testing method.
In the video the people were put in various social situations and then their responses were keenly observed. This might get a good idea about the cultural fitment aspect of the business.
However I think there is something more than just the fitment aspect. I think there are a lot of personalities that really won’t pass this test but may be quite suited to the job. I think that this way of hiring may still get people to put on their “social mask” and to be friendly till the time this is complete.
But maybe they have already checked everyone for their experience and everything being equal this would be one of the best way to evaluate a person.
Great post and thanks for adding so much value to my blog. I enjoyed reading it :)


Sonia February 22, 2012 at 12:44 am

Thanks Ash for the opportunity my friend. I have never had this happen to me, but looking back, companies I interviewed had me in a few situations and I never picked up on it. I think start ups with younger people doing this, while old well-established companies hire based on experience.


Aswani February 20, 2012 at 8:43 am

Excellent writeup…so much to know and learn from this. In the end…I believe companies are doing the right thing by resorting to such strategies. This will surely help in building the right atmosphere inside their organizations which is so very vital in the long run. From employees point of view, it doesn’t look so comfortable. But with right approach and positive attitude, things can be made favorable…happened same with me..!


Sonia February 21, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Aswani, I thought allot about this and I wasn’t too happy that companies resort to this, but after sometime thinking about it I realized that getting the right person that will get along with your team is crucial. Companies spend allot of money to train a new employee and to find out after the fact that personalities clash is fatal to a companies environment. Thank you so much for your comment.


Bill Dorman February 18, 2012 at 12:52 am

I would always hire culture over experience within reason. It is SO much easier to hire for culture than trying to ‘teach’ culture. If you are familiar with the American Airlines story, this is exactly what they do. Regardless of how qualified you might be, if it appears you won’t fit into the culture of American Airlines, they are not going to waste time and money making the hire.

Take the time to hire the right people first time around and not only will you be more productive, it will save tremendous amounts of money and headaches in the long run.

Nice post, and very applicable.


Sonia February 18, 2012 at 1:51 am

Experience has its merit, but culture fit is just as important if not more. You want to know that they will not only get along with employees, but can work well as a team. I didn’t know about the American Airline story and I will check that out. Thanks Bill for your comment and support.


Bill Dorman February 18, 2012 at 3:19 am

Yep, I’m a big ol’ goober; I meant the Southwest Airlines story. I had the chance to hear one of their top guys speak at an event and I was really impressed. They base their success mainly on being able to hire the right culture, including the pilots.


Sonia February 22, 2012 at 10:29 am

That’s interesting, but I can see it only with Southwest than with any other airline. They seem more like a kick back company with a laid back atmosphere. I think it’s why I fly with them more than any other airline.


Adrienne February 17, 2012 at 10:36 pm

I think in reality that it’s a pretty cool idea to actually spend more quality time with the candidates that you believe would be a good fit to see if their personalities do mesh with your coworkers.

I know for myself that employees getting along with each other is a very important part of the work environment. Once they are able to relax and be themselves then I think that’s a big part of it. Of course in a situation like this with the Penny Arcade, their atmosphere is a more relaxed one. For the real stuffy office atmosphere’s this might be a little more challenging.

Great guest post Sonia and I’m sorry I’m late getting here. You did good though girl, I thoroughly enjoyed it.



Sonia February 18, 2012 at 1:47 am

You’re right about a more stuffy office environment, but the firm I worked for was professional, but we sure did let it loose at times and having someone in our environment that can take our banter was super important. We hired one girl who just didn’t know how to let loose and needless to say, she didn’t last long. She did a great job, but personality-wise it just wasn’t a fit.

You can never tell these days, but that is where I think people really need to do their homework on the job hunt and make sure they really want to work their them self. Thank you for your comment and I appreciate the support as always.


rachit s. February 16, 2012 at 11:15 am

Tot agree.. I’m facing one such probation period :D

Weakest LINK


Sonia February 16, 2012 at 4:57 pm

It’s not an easy period I bet, but I think most people forget why they are actually in the final cut. Remembering this will help “you” decide if this is a company you really want to work with. Thanks Rachit for your comment.


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