The 6 Parts of Recruiting for Culture

I met with a client today who made me smile — a Cheshire-Cat-Eating-Grin Smile, as a matter of fact.

He said, “Heather, I need to invest in the screening phase to figure out if these candidates are a good fit for our culture and our clients. That way, I don’t have to give up resources when I fire them later.”


After I wiped the grin off my face, I told him I was proud of him and glad to hear it. (I refrained from reminding him I’ve been preachin’ that for years.)

Pay now or pay later … either way you’ll pay. 

If you are a recruiter, HR professional, supervisor, or leader who wants to fill the seat, there is no need to read more of this post. Good luck to you.

However, if you want to fit someone with your organization and have him stick, read on.

Corporate culture can be described as the “norms” shared by employees in an organization that control the way they interact with each other, with other stakeholders and with customers.

I believe corporate culture is made up of the following:

Vision & Mission

Where your organization is going and how it plans to get there are important to the majority of people who live and work on this planet. Take the time to educate yourself in these subjects and make sure you are communicating them to your candidates. Better yet, have your candidates tell you why and how they believe they “fit” within your plans.

Organizational Values

The principles your organization holds itself to (I like to say these are the things you are not willing to compromise along the journey) will speak volumes to potential candidates. Likewise, candidate values and behaviors should speak volumes to you. If you see behaviors that are at odds with your corporate values, it’s a good chance the individual will have a hard time fitting in.

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Work Environment

Work environment can include things like dress code, office spaces, group/staff spaces, etc. It could also include things like ability to telecommute, group thinking sessions, meeting protocols, etc. Whenever possible, walk the candidate around, allow him/her to talk with staff during the screening process, and encourage questions about the work environment so there are no surprises (and mis-fits) later.

Leadership Style

Leadership styles are a critical part of an organization’s culture and sub-cultures. Consider what types of leadership styles are being used most of the time.  Don’t make it difficult; generalize into the basic three: autocratic, democratic, and laissez faire. Engage with the candidate about these issues. Tell stories, offer examples, etc. Trust me, if you throw a perfectly capable and competent person into a team where the leader is predominantly autocratic, you’ll be re-recruiting within six months.

Organizational Structure

Organizational structure is how your departments, programs, or offices are organized, what type of power/authority is delegated to them, etc. This has a huge impact on corporate culture as it strongly affects communication, efficiencies, effectiveness, and sanity. Engaging with candidates about their comfort level with autonomy, or lack thereof, or talking with them about what they see as the pros/cons of your structure may give you some insight into how they will fit into the “lines” and how they will manage to work “in the white space.”

Personal Qualities of Workforce

The qualities of the current workforce play a big part in the culture because they are the ones living and breathing it. I didn’t use the word “personalities,” but to be honest, personalities are a part of this. Is the staff a group of high performers or entitlement whiners? Are they competitive or complacent? Are they welcoming or do they live in their cliques? Are they social butterflies or hermits? These are the realities of the workforce, and your new hire will need to compliment them, not work against them.

In summary, corporate culture isn’t something the CEO defines and gets “blessed” and implemented. It’s the norms that are created over time by leadership and the workforce.

Culture shock is a waste of time for everyone involved so may I suggest you invest your resources now so you’re not wasting them later.

With expertise in recruitment and selection, training and development, job analysis and design, labor and employee relations, and investigations/risk assessment, Heather Kinzie, SPHR, GPHR, provides business leaders, HR professionals and management staff practical, relevant, and valuable HR consultation. Heather offers a variety of engaging facilitation services to include workforce planning, strategic planning, team-building, and process analysis and redesign. Her training courses include topics to enhance Leadership, Supervision, Communications, Productivity, Customer Service, and Cultural Awareness and Diversity. Website LinkedIn Twitter: @leadingsolution


7 Comments on “The 6 Parts of Recruiting for Culture

  1. Very thorough and well-written. ISTM there is a basic assumption operating that the existing culture is functional and needs to be maintained/reinforced. That’s a BIG (and often faulty) assumption.

    Happy Friday,


  2. Heather, well said! I have often told hiring managers that just because someone looks great on paper does not mean they are necessarily right for the job. Included in my reasons for that is cultural fit, something as basic as personality fit. Any experienced recruiter will tell you it plays a VERY important role in the selection and should not be overlooked.

    You mentioned ‘Personal Qualities of Workforce’ and I respectfully disagree with you breaking them out into personalities and personal qualities. You used terms such as ‘high-performers’, ‘competitive’ and indicated that these are personal qualities. I firmly believe that these are part of the personality. It is what they are, not something they possess and I wouldn’t break them down at all. I believe you would get a much better, closer cultural fit thinking of it this way.

    Excellent post and some timely thoughts. I am a firm believer in proper cultural fit, not just hiring a body for the sake of easing my req load.

  3. Thanks Keith and Paul for your thoughtful comments on this post. I appreciate you taking the time to engage!

    Paul, you make some good points about the difference between a quality that is “in” us versus a quality we choose to demonstrate and/or fine tune. Indeed, they are both important and I agree that the former one needs to be well matched to the org. culture as it’s going to be difficult if not impossible to change!

    In any event, I’m glad to see you both believe there is the need to match the candidate as a good cultural fit…now there is three of us! Let’s spread the word!

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