Finding the "Organizational Fit": 3 Ways Successful Companies Get It Right

Everyone in the recruiting space understands the importance of finding the “organizational fit,” (otherwise known as hiring for “cultural fit” or “culture add”). Employees that believe in and reflect an organization’s culture are more likely to report high job satisfaction, produce superior work, and remain with the company long term.  

But finding candidates that mesh with your company culture, selling them on your company, and assessing applicant fit beyond technical considerations is easier said than done. Over the past six years, we’ve helped thousands of startups and tech companies find, connect with and hire top talent, and in that time we’ve seen firsthand how the most successful companies approach this challenge.

There are three ways that successful companies focus on finding the organizational fit. Keep reading to learn what they are and how you can make them part of your approach to hiring.

3 Ways to Find the Organizational Fit:

1. More than ping pong tables: They focus on what really matters

For some organizations, there seems to be a cultural disconnect at work and relatively superficial traits are being championed as defining characteristics of corporate identity. Think about many of the careers pages you’ve seen over the past few years and you’ll see this in action: ubiquitous claims of work hard, play hard attitudes, videos of holiday parties and corporate outings, and shots of ping pong tables as far as the eye can see.

While well intentioned, this skin-deep approach doesn’t get to the heart of finding the organizational fit: to hire candidates that mesh with your organization, you have to dig deep and uncover the core values that really motivate your team. Ping pong tournaments and happy hours may be great examples of how your employees choose to spend their Thursday evenings, but are they indicative of the core values that drive your organization? Probably not.  

Similarly, there’s a danger to focusing on qualities like whether candidates like the same music or TV shows or are someone the interviewing team would like to grab a beer with. Using this type of superficial criteria makes your hiring process much more biased and makes it a lot harder to hire a diverse workforce. Plus, it means that interviewers are focusing on traits that don’t have any real impact on a candidate’s ability to perform their job.

Now take a look at Facebook’s Five Core Values. Traits like Be Bold, Focus on Impact, and Build Social Value are aspirational, detailed, and, most importantly, they represent the fundamental values the organization is looking for in candidates.

organizational fit

Better yet, read through Amazon’s Leadership Principles. Leaders Are Right, A Lot. Leaders Insist on the Highest Standards. Leaders Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit. The list is exhaustive—even intimidating—which is the entire point. Amazon understands the attributes candidates will need in order to succeed, and does everything in its power to be upfront and honest. This has the benefit of attracting the right type of candidates, while perhaps helping others to select themselves out of the process.

Each company has taken the time to identify its core values and present them in a clear and compelling manner. And pay close attention to that “identify” word, because it’s important. Uncovering your core values should always be an exploratory process, and never dictatorial. You can’t choose traits and values at random and hope your team will believe in them as much as you. You have to get the entire organization involved in the process, soliciting feedback from everyone and earning buy in at every level. It’s not easy, but finding the organizational fit won’t be possible until you’ve codified your core values, so it’s time well spent.

2. Prove it: They show specific examples

Recruiters are getting serious about leveraging corporate culture to attract candidates, which is great, but this progress is not without its disadvantages. Job seekers are being exposed to more cultural “static” than ever before, making it difficult for recruiters to cut through the background noise.

To capture the attention of top candidates, you need to do more than tell them about your culture and core values. You need to prove how your culture and core values align with their own, positioning your organization as an ideal work place. When properly executed, a simple “show, don’t tell” approach works wonders.

You can tell candidates that career development is important to the organization, or you can show them exactly how your firm promotes from within, highlighting career ladders and future opportunities.   

You can tell candidates you encourage teamwork, or you can show them the individuals within your company that embody this trait, the impact they have on day-to-day success, and how appreciated they are.  

You can tell candidates you value health and wellness, or you can show them what you’re doing to keep your employees happy and healthy and explain why you’re doing it.

When it comes to finding the right channels for sharing your story, the options are almost endless. Careers pages, online communities, social media platforms, forums, and more are all valid options, so do some research to find out where your ideal candidates get their information and get busy crafting your story.

3. Judge fairly: They understand how to evaluate candidates for cultural fit

Finding and attracting candidates likely to gel with your corporate culture is important, but at some point you’ll have to actually assess their fit. Without a clearly defined process, you’ll be forced to rely on gut feelings and intuition rather than hard data, which can easily derail your prior effort. Once again, we’ve seen some common traits successful companies share:

  • They have alignment on core values

Everyone involved with the hiring process—recruiters, hiring managers, and decision makers— must be on the same page as to what your core values are and how the organization defines them. Assuming you’ve taken the time to identify your core values up front, you’ll be all set here.

  • They have a structured interview process

A structured interview process will ensure you’re gathering information that provides insight into each candidate’s cultural fit. For example, if collaboration is one of your core values, make sure to ask candidates about their past experience working in team settings. Questions can be as simple or complex as you like, so long as they provide the information you need and every candidate has a chance to answer.

  • They have an objective assessment process

Finally, you need an approach that will allow you to effectively judge the cultural fit of each candidate. There’s no single way to do this, so you’ll have to experiment to find the scoring system that best meets your needs. What matters most is that everyone on the hiring team is consistently utilizing the same criteria to assess each candidate.

Focus on the fundamentals

Like any other aspect of recruiting, finding the organizational fit is no easy task. Success requires a strategic effort, not to mention a lot of hard work, but the payoff is well worth it. Focus on these three fundamental techniques before expanding your efforts and you’ll have built the foundation you need for sustained success.

Want to create a more consistent way to hire for culture fit—and all other attributes? Download a copy of our Structured Hiring 101 eBook for ideas you can put into practice.

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Maria Christopoulos Katris is the Co-Founder & CEO of Built In, the most powerful online recruiting solution for tech companies across six U.S. markets. The network of Built In sites provides an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the innovative products and cultures of today's top tech companies. Maria’s team shares insights on recruiting and employer branding in the tech space on Built In’s Tech Recruiter Blog.

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Company Culture