5 Tips for Gauging If a Candidate’s Personality Fits Your Company Culture

Hiring a new employee is more than adding headcount to your team. It can impact the dynamic of your organization.

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"Hire for culture, train for skill." It’s the new mantra that’s being adopted by businesses around the globe, but how can you be sure your new hires have what it takes to integrate with your workforce?

The recruitment landscape is shifting. While the hiring process was once firmly rooted in ability, formal qualifications are starting to hold less weight than they once were.

Of course, education and experience both remain vital considerations when interviewing the next generation of potential talent, but as companies strive to build a strong workplace culture and create motivational and inspirational environments, it’s becoming increasingly important that new hires blend into this established setting.

Research undertaken by talent management firm Cubiks suggests that as many as 90% of today’s recruiters have rejected candidates because they don’t fit in with company culture, but just why is a personality so important, and how can businesses ensure they’re bringing the right people on board?

… 90% of today’s recruiters have rejected candidates because they don’t fit in with company culture …

Why does personality matter?

Isn’t an ability to do the job the most important factor when recruiting new talent? Ability and qualifications remain essential parts of the recruitment process, but personality and cultural fit are creeping in as an additional consideration that modern businesses should be taking into account.

There’s a new saying in town — hire for culture, train for skill — which is based on the concept that businesses can train the right people to do the job, but can’t change a person’s ingrained personality.

And at a time when three-quarters of workers are reporting that they’ve left a position due to poor cultural fit, getting it right is becoming more and more important.

“Poor cultural fit” doesn’t necessarily mean that employees expect pool tables and Google-style workspaces that look more like playgrounds than offices.

“Poor cultural fit” doesn’t necessarily mean that employees expect pool tables and Google-style workspaces that look more like playgrounds than offices. It can simply mean that their personality and what they expect from a job doesn’t align with the character of the organization or what the company expects from employees.

Everyone is different, and varying expectations are natural, but it’s vital to filter out those that do fit from those that don’t during the very early stages of the hiring process. Why? Because the average bad hire costs $14,900.

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Assessing talent

In addition to avoiding the costs of a bad hire, there are many other benefits to gauging personality during the hiring process. Employees who feel connected to the organization, who share a similar vision and outlook, and who are on the same wavelength as other workers can be significant drivers of improved collaboration and communication within the workplace, resulting in more efficient ways of working and an ability to work together to identify problems, and contributing to all-round success.

So just how can businesses identify candidates with personalities that gel with the existing workforce?

1. Host experiential interviews

Experiential interviews, or “behavioral interviewing” is an alternative method of interviewing candidates that prioritizes actions over words. The technique is based on the idea that asking candidates about themselves or requiring them to answer standard brain teasers isn’t enough to fully gauge who they are.

The method involves simulating typical workplace scenarios and asking a candidate to perform within the setting. This could be writing code, solving customer problems, or selling a product or service.

Experiential interviewing places candidates into the work environment, and gauges how their personality impacts the way they act and behave in workplace settings and in response to work tasks.

Major organizations are already onboard with behavioral interviewing, with former Senior Vice President for People Operations at Google, Lazlo Bock, telling a New York Times reporter that “brain teasers are a complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

Experiential interviewing places candidates into the work environment, and gauges how their personality impacts the way they act and behave in workplace settings and in response to work tasks.

2. Ask open-ended questions

Qualitative interviewing is a method that provides candidates with much more scope to speak about themselves openly and freely. It involves asking open-ended interview questions, rather than the standard yes/no questions, to encourage candidates to share more and show off their personality.

Yes/no questions, while simple, are about little more than fact-checking; They don’t offer an opportunity for interviewers to learn more about the candidate beyond the checkbox criteria.

By asking open-ended questions, interviewers can gain more insight into the candidate themselves, beyond their qualifications and professional experience. For example, rather than asking “Have you ever experienced conflict within the workplace?”, the question could be altered to “Tell me about a time you experienced conflict in the workplace”, facilitating a platform where candidates can share without box-checking limitations.

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3. Listen to body language

Way back in 1971, the University of California Professor Albert Mehrabian published a book titled “Silent Messages.” The book highlighted Mehrabian’s recent research into communications and introduced the 7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication.

The rule suggests that just 7% of a person’s message is conveyed through their words, with 38% coming through tone of voice, and a whopping 55% is conveyed through body language. Listening to body language is currently undervalued in recruitment.

When interviewing, it’s important not to focus on words alone, but to look at what a candidate is saying through their actions. This can be tricky, especially as 73% of people report feeling stressed at interviews.

Listening to body language is currently undervalued in recruitment.

While candidates shouldn’t be dismissed based on common signs of nervousness such as fidgeting or speaking quickly, body language can be used to gauge personality. If a person is sat upright, for example, they may be more naturally confident and dominant compared to a candidate who is hunched over.

4. Consider personality tests

Pre-employment personality tests are somewhat controversial, and have often been referred to as the “astrology of the office.” They certainly don’t have a winning reputation, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s reported that just 13% of organizations use personality tests during candidate selection.

However, research suggests that there may be some important personality traits that actually can be identified through self-reporting questionnaires such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Big Five test.

By including personality testing as part of the interviewing process, businesses can gain more insight into whether candidates meet the emotional requirements of the role.

A report published in the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences suggests that personality traits such as neuroticism and conscientiousness can be picked up on through well-designed testing systems, which can be particularly useful when hiring for managerial positions.

The report puts forward the idea that managers demonstrate low levels of neuroticism, making them very stable, and high levels of conscientiousness. By including personality testing as part of the interviewing process, businesses can gain more insight into whether candidates meet the emotional requirements of the role.

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5. Involve the workforce

How many interviewers should you have? That’s the million-dollar question. It’s tricky because there is so much conflicting research out there. Some researchers, like Bayne and Fletcher, believe that panels do not necessarily make better decisions than single interviewers, while research by Google suggests that, in difficult cases especially, increasing from 1 interviewer to 7 interviewers can boost the chance of making a good hire by 23%.

What we do know is that, in terms of productivity and workplace disruption, keeping the number of interviewers to a minimum is often the preferred method by organizations.

However, even if existing team members are not called in to host the interview itself, it can be beneficial to involve the workforce in the decision-making process by introducing the candidate to the team they’ll be working with. In doing so, it’s possible to get a glimpse into the candidate’s relationship with the team, seeing how they interact with each other and how they communicate. The ability to communicate effectively and work together can be integral to building strong, motivated, and highly-productive teams.

Know what you want

Contrary to popular belief, gauging candidate personality and determining whether it fits the existing company culture isn’t the difficult part — knowing what you’re looking for is. Many companies dive into recruitment without really taking the time to consider what sort of personality traits would blend into the workplace environment. Patience? Clarity? Control? Flexibility? Dominance? Stability? Sensitivity?

A good way to be clear on what you’re looking for is to spend some time with the company’s marketing department, if marketing is undertaken in-house. Take a look at how content marketers are writing about the organization.

Is it portrayed as energetic and results-driven? Laidback and fun? Professional? Innovative and exciting? By knowing what sort of culture you’ve adopted, and what sort of culture you’re promoting, it becomes easier to envision the sort of personalities that will fit right in to the setting.

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