“We Recruit For Fit.” Now, What Does That Mean?

Workers cheering - freedigitalMy agency partners have told me countless times that they work hard to locate candidates that are a good cultural fit for my organization. Truthfully, I think agencies tell me this because it’s what they think I want to hear. They don’t actually know what cultural fit means and moreover do not have any meaningful process in place to vet candidates based on my organization’s culture fit. When pressed, most agencies respond with vague, you’ll-know-it when-you-see-it type answers.

Before I get too far into this topic, though, I want to make it clear – this is not another beat-up-on-the-agency conversation. We, as clients, are just as guilty of this cultural charade as our agency counterparts. We don’t engage our agency partners in a dialogue on this topic, and we get frustrated when agencies don’t “get it.”

I think most professional staffing firms would love an opportunity to truly understand your organization and how they can help select candidates that will fit. Let me explain.

Articulating Fit

First, very few companies can clearly articulate their corporate culture, what makes it unique, and how to position culture as a significant part of the candidate’s decision making process. If a client company does not clearly understand their own culture, how can they expect their agency partners to find candidates that fit culturally? Compounding the issue, even culture-rich organizations have individuals and teams that try to define their own culture within the organization, adding to the frustration of everyone involved. As an agency, you should expect your client, at minimum, to provide you with specific culture-fit questions to ask candidates.

Vendor Mistrust

Second, vendors are often held at arm’s length. Even when a client has a well-defined, differentiated corporate culture they treat their agency partners the same way as every other vendor. As a result the agency does not get a full view of the organization. This relationship mistrust results in a disconnect felt, most apparently, by hiring managers. As clients, we must work with select agency vendors that we treat as true partners. Invite them to meetings with managers, allow them access to your internal recruiting team meetings, and include them as part of key recruiting initiatives.

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Missing Feedback

Lastly, internal recruiters allow hiring managers to dismiss candidates too easily on the basis of cultural non-fit. How many times have we heard a hiring manager say, “I liked them, but they just didn’t seem to be a good team (culture) fit”? This vague response provides no meaningful feedback for the candidate and, more importantly, for the next candidate that an agency might present.

Hiring culturally adept candidates is incredibly important to building strong organizations. And utilizing external recruiters is almost always a piece of the recruiting puzzle. So, clients should work hard to integrate their trusted agency partners into their hiring process and not put them in a ‘need to know basis’ situation.

Matt Lowney is the CEO of Practice Recruiters and The Recruiting Call Center. He was previously the EVP of talent & operations at The Buntin Group, Tennessee’s largest advertising agency. Prior, he was director of recruiting for HealthSpring and recruiting manager at DaVita. Connect with him at http://www.linkedin.com/in/mattlowney


4 Comments on ““We Recruit For Fit.” Now, What Does That Mean?

  1. Great insight Matt! Please continue to spread the word, as ultimately both side of the equation want the same outcome…a successful placement. The more information and engagement agency partners have, the higher the likelihood of a “cultural fit” candidate being presented.

    1. Doug and Matt, the word or phrase, “cultural fit” can denote another reality to candidates that are “diverse professionals of color.” The mention of “Cultural Fit” evokes to me and others within the diverse attorney of color legal search world a signal to have a conversation about conscious and most likely unconscious bias. When any of my law firm or corporate in house counsel clients use the phrase “cultural fit” I am inclined to meet them head on with the conversation of diversity and inclusion. Matt, you are now within the advertising agency world, this is a business where the phrase “cultural fit” is bandied about more often than not and as you and I both know “cultural fit” dis-includes professionals of color. That is what sets us apart from our colleagues, we do get it, confronting it is a testament to our ethics and prowess as talent agents, more so talent agents of change.

  2. Excellent post, Matt. I discussed this in one of my own blog posts recently as it truly is one of the most difficult things for an agency recruiter to actually deliver on. It takes a strong client/agent relationship, with hiring manager involvement to actually make this happen. The “Missing Feedback” point really becomes an issue. In my experience, unless you have a very small company, cultural fit is more about fitting the team culture rather than the corporations culture.

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