Cultural Fit Job Interviews a Growing Trend

Every organization has its own specific culture. Some companies are conservative and formal, with well-defined hierarchies, expectations for behavior and dress codes. Other companies place more value on teamwork and creativity, allowing employees to set their own working hours and dress casually.

Job InterviewWhether or not employees wear a suits or jeans is but one manifestation of organizational culture. The culture of a company is based upon the values, beliefs and behaviors of the employees and it can make a significant difference in how employees approach their responsibilities and interact with co-workers. That is why, when it comes to hiring new employees, an applicant’s fit within the culture of the organization is becoming just as important, if not more so, than his or her technical or functional skills.

In fact, many companies have implemented “cultural fit” interviews into the hiring process. Though the interview still examines yourorganizational leadership skills and experience to make sure you meet the challenges of your desired position, a cultural fit interview focus on how well your personality and values match the existing organizational culture.

Why Personality Matters

According to one recent study, hiring the wrong person costsup to $50,000, taking into account the candidate search, salary, benefits, training and severance pay. Hiring the wrong person also affects productivity and morale.

Organizational culture is becoming more important to applicants themselves, particularly among millennials. When you spend 40 hours or more per week in the company of a group of people, you want to get along with them and find common ground. Experts also point out that because so many people are relocating to find work, coworkers are becoming a “second family” to many people, underscoring the importance of a good cultural fit.


Not Your Typical Job Interview

How does a hiring manager gauge a cultural fit?

In a typical job interview, an applicant usually must elaborate on his or her experience, clarify the points on the application or demonstrate technical competency. The questions are the ones we’ve all heard: What are your strengths and weaknesses? Where do you see yourself in five years? Describe your approach to handling conflict, and so on.

In a cultural interview, the questions may or may not be related to your experience or even the job itself. In fact, most of the time, cultural fit questions seem to be off-the-wall, or more suited to a blind date than a job interview. You might be asked about your hobbies, the books and music that you enjoy, your travels or even your preference between two options, such as Coke or Pepsi. The interviewer might also ask about your working style and preferences. For example, you should be prepared to answer:

  • Do you prefer working alone or in a group?
  • What role do you normally take in a group project?
  • Describe your ideal coworker.
  • Describe the best boss you ever had.
  • What would make you unhappy in a job?

Interviewers use your responses to these questions to determine whether you would thrive in the existing environment, so it’s important to answer them honestly. Telling the interviewer what you think he or she wants to hear might land you the job, but will you be truly happy? Assess the company culture from your own standpoint. Look for clues as to how the company operates as you move through the hiring process. Keep your eyes and ears open for clues as to the organization’s culture. What words do the interviewers use to describe the corporate culture? What is the overall vibe of the office? How do people appear to be working? Can you see yourself there?

Do your research before the interview as well. Most organizations post information about their culture on their corporate websites, and you can read reviews or tap into your network for the inside scoop.

The Downside to Cultural Fit Interviewing

While seeking employees who mesh well with the existing organization helps prevent “bad” hires, it can be detrimental to an organization. Experts note that hiring only those that fit in with everyone else creates a culture of “sameness” and limits the diversity of thinking. Studies show that companies who have the greatest level of diversity also have the greatest level of innovation and skill, which often translates to better employee retention and higher profits. As a result, the Society for Human Resource Management recommends implementing cultural fit interviewing not just as a tool for maintaining the culture of the organization but for creating the desired culture as well.

Regardless of why a particular organization uses the cultural fit method, it appears to be here to stay. Be ready to answer questions about the last book you read and what you like to watch on television. Your answers might just land you the job of your dreams.


Category: Job Education

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