Gut punch: Why metrics trump intuition when you’re hiring for culture fit

By Editor March 14, 2016

Have you ever hired a nightmare employee? The person probably seemed like a great fit in the interview. You may have even followed your gut, hiring the candidate who came across as a better fit in the interview. A few weeks later, you found yourself saddled with someone who couldn’t do the work, was stressed out about your company culture, and who needed to be let go. You’ve wasted time, money and resources on the hiring process and now you are back at square one.

It makes sense to trust your gut when you’re choosing a dessert or making vacation plans. However, when you’re hiring, you need strong metrics in place to help you measure culture fit, core values and personality – all key ingredients in making the right hire for your team.

What is Culture Fit and What’s Not

Why do recruiters have such a hard time hiring for culture fit? Part of the problem is that most people don’t really understand what culture fit is. Many people think of culture fit as “someone I’d like to have a beer with,” or “someone who’s like our other team members.” However, culture isn’t a feeling or even a pattern. It’s more like a puzzle. When you’re hiring based on culture fit, you should be looking for that missing piece, the person who fills certain roles, thinks in certain ways, and whose skills and personality will complement, not duplicate, those of your existing team.

That means that ‘culture fit’ will look different for each position, or even for the same position at different points in time. To hire well for culture fit, you need to do some serious groundwork before you even post the position.

Creating a Metric for Culture Fit

Before you can create a metric to help you evaluate candidates, you need to analyze your existing team members. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What personality traits could you use? Do you have at least one person from each of the major team member types?

Many offices use personality assessments like the DISC to give insight into employees and their interactions. This test rates people based on their dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness. Office managers can use the test to see how people will fit into existing teams at the company.

Once you’ve gotten a clear picture of where the new employee will fit into the jigsaw puzzle of your larger culture, it’s time to prepare for the interview. You’ll need to develop criteria that you and your team are comfortable with to ensure you’re basing decisions on the actual information conveyed by the interview, not on gut reactions.

What a Good Metric Looks Like

A good metric for culture and values fit begins with a clear description of the company, its culture, the position, and the personality traits required to succeed as part of the team. Often, being clear about your needs and culture at the beginning of an interview will help a candidate decide if they are a good fit for your office.

Next, you need a list of questions and a guideline for judging answers. For instance:

Question 1: What was the culture like at your last company? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like? What parts were hard to adjust to?

1- Didn’t notice culture at all. Can’t describe culture in terms beyond ‘good’ and ‘bad.’

2- States concrete things she liked and disliked, but they don’t match up with our company culture.

3- Describes old culture clearly, likes and dislikes match up with our company structure.

4- In depth description of old company, likes and dislikes match with our culture, gives concrete examples of how she dealt with adjustment to new culture.

5- All of the traits in number 4, plus demonstrates clear willingness to adapt to company culture and to think about ways in which she can contribute to the culture.

You should also include questions that can give information on whether a candidate’s values and personality are a good fit for the position. For instance, if you’re hiring for a position that requires attention to detail, you might want to ask the candidate to tell about a time when he or she had to restart a project to get it right. Detail-oriented candidates might have several anecdotes about this, while a sloppy candidate is unlikely to start over and may not be able to answer the question.

After a candidate is interviewed, find his or her total score. Make a note of areas where there was an especially obvious strength or weakness to help you decide who to hire in the event of a tie.

After you hire someone, evaluate their cultural fit at three months, six months, and one year’s time. Use these measurements to help you adjust your metrics and refine your hiring process.

It’s important to establish a unique, reliable way of measuring cultural fit for your office. Then you can save ‘gut decisions’ for questions like “cheesecake or tiramisu?”

About Tonya Lanthier

Tonya started in 2005. Since then, DentalPost has grown into a networking platform for over 400,000 dental professionals and over 25,000 dental offices and growing. Tonya continues to work as a Registered Dental Hygienist; she believes that staying active in the field provides her with new insights and knowledge every day.

*”Perspective” pieces are submitted by individuals, and lightly edited by StartUp Beat for spelling and grammar. Any claims made or errors otherwise are attributed to and the sole responsibility of the author.