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How To Assess Cultural Fit In A Candidate

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Besides skill and temperament, cultural fit is a key parameter for hiring success. The presence of a multi-ethnic workforce in a global business hub like the UAE calls for special focus on cultural fit in the interest of seamless employee integration. As corporations hire more talent from across geographies, cultures and ethnicities, cultural fit is the glue that binds your employees together and enables them to work together as a team.

A conscious effort at selecting candidates who are not only technically qualified but also aligned with the core values and culture of your business, not only results in better communication and teamwork, but also carries a plethora of lesser-known benefits such as increased employee satisfaction, better work performance, lower stress levels, greater employee loyalty and lower turnover rate.

There are several ways to assess cultural fit—ranging from asking the right questions in an interview, to conducting proper reference checks. Below are some key steps to assess a candidate’s cultural fit at the time of hiring—starting with working on yourself to ensure that you become a better judge of cultural suitability.

1. Know Your Organisation 

This is the first and the foremost requirement. After all, if you yourself are not clear about the cultural values of your organisation, how can you assess whether others fit the bill or not? As a hiring manager, getting clarity about your organisation’s mission, vision and values is an important prerequisite to determine how a candidate fits in with the overall ethos of the company. If you are a new manager, analysing your company’s priorities, talking to your colleagues to find out about which behaviours get rewarded in the company, and studying traits of your key leaders will offer some vital clues about company culture.

2. Check References

Reference checks throw light on the candidate’s work ethics, professionalism, core competence, besides providing insight into their behavioural traits and cultural values including whether they show any signs of bigotry, racism, misogyny, misandry etc. Former managers are a good source of reference check as they have considerable experience in supervising the candidate. While calling up a reference, try not to be in a hurry to allow them to open up.

3. Ask the Right Interview Questions

Interviewing is a skill which is cultivated over time. Asking generic questions will produce generic answers without revealing much about the candidate. A better approach is to ask open-ended but specific questions to draw out answers which allow you to get clarity on the candidate’s mindset. Here are five sample questions you could ask the candidate to assess cultural fit.

  • What do you like best about your present job?
  • Who was the best boss you ever had and which qualities did you admire?
  • How would your co-workers describe your work style?
  • Tell us about an occasion where you exceeded your manager’s expectations.
  • Which one thing would you like to change in your present organisation?

4. Check Online Footprint 

The online footprint of a candidate can throw a great deal of light on their thinking in today’s digital era. It is always a good idea to look at a candidate’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles to understand their ideology and thought process. Supporting illegal or controversial movements including extremist ideologies are an immediate red flag. The comments of friends and acquaintances can also reveal a lot about the candidate.

5. Employee Referrals

Arguably the best solution to ensure a steady supply of candidates who share the same cultural values as your organisation lies in establishing a robust employee referral programme. This offers an excellent way to ensure access to a relatively ‘safe’ pool of candidates. After all, the people in your employees’ social circles are likely to share similar ethics and values as them, and by extension those of your company. Recruiting through employee referrals brings all the gains of cultural fitment. For example, candidates hired through employee referrals tend to stay on longer in the company and be more productive.

Cultural Fit vs Diversity

Organisations spend huge sums of money on hiring talent. To reap the full benefits of recruitment, companies should ensure that new hires are fully aligned with the cultural values of the company. At the same time, adequate care must be taken to safeguard that the quest for cultural fitment does have the effect of undermining pluralism. Organisations that succeed in combining cultural fit with diversity are the ones that end up with a winning combination.

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