The new hire X factor

Across all industries from technology to manufacturing, health care and professional services, the battle cry of many hiring managers is the difficulty in finding candidates who will fit within their corporate culture. Having recently worked with a number of clients on their hiring needs, I know the dilemma all too well – resumes come in, candidates interview, but none present themselves as the right person for the job.

Even as hiring managers find individuals with the right skill set and commitment – which is a tall order in and of itself – unknowns remain. What’s missing? What can be done to ensure your next hire is the right hire?

Cultural fit is one of the primary “x factors” in assess and hiring new staff. Something that is difficult to pinpoint in one or two meetings. But it can be as important, if not more so than practical experience in gauging a candidates potential success in a new role.

The way an employee interacts with others both internally and externally is core to cultural fit. Such intangibles as organization, leadership and authenticity factor into it. Basically, cultural fit is the ability of an employee to feel comfortable in his or her own skin in the workplace.

As hiring managers, the responsibility is to establish expectations around company culture and share the key attributes with candidates from the outset, such as team orientation, community involvement, achievement awards and company celebrations. That way, new employees aren’t caught off guard as they’re asked to plant trees or share their birthday as part of their work day.

In addition, basic standards such as timely delivery of deadlines, use of technology during meetings and sharing workplace news on social media can be unknowns to new employees during their first few weeks and months. These may seem obvious to more tenured staff, but can be disarming to new hires, potentially undermining opportunities for successful execution of their day-to-day responsibilities, if not effectively communicated.

To suss out whether or not candidates have what it takes to be successful within the particular culture of a company can be identified with a few non-traditional interviewing tips. Know that a candidate is on the short-list for an open position? Schedule time with him or her to take a walk with the hiring manager or peers of the role.  The “walking meeting” is a more authentic way to share insights about the company, while also learning more than would be typical in a formal interview.

For businesses both big and small, here are few conversation starters, while cruising around the block or meeting up at a local park.

If volunteerism is important within the company culture, check-in with the candidate about his or her own involvement in the community. Even try asking them what’s the biggest mess, literally a mess, they’ve made in their personal lives lately, such as cleaning the garage or gardening. If they are willing to get dirty at home, they are likely to be okay with it in the workplace and volunteering can often be dirty work.

And, inquire about their perfect meeting – is it fully structured or more free form? Do they enjoy brainstorming? Knowing how they would ideally approach meetings will provide valuable insights into the way they will gel with the existing team.

Lastly, if they were in charge, what’s one new program they would work to implement. Perhaps mentoring is important to the candidate or initiating a leadership program. Alternatively, they might suggest ride-alongs for operational staff with sales to cross-train the workforce. Skies the limit.

These conversations will be invaluable in getting at cultural fit early on, setting the foundation for success and hopefully reducing attrition as employees find the company as a home where they can truly be themselves and find success.

Categories: Business Insights, Human Resources