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“Cultural Fit” Hiring in Only 5 Minutes?

An international study by Cubiks of more than 500 organizations showed that 82% felt cultural fit was an important measure in the hiring process.  Additionally, 59% reported they rejected a candidate based on the lack of cultural fit, and seventy-five percent of the hand shake1respondents believed cultural fit was a good predictor of success.  Sounds like hiring for personality is the new fad in recruiting.   Here’s the problem though.  Only a little more than half of the respondents could define their company’s culture.

Furthermore, how can anyone accurately determine what cultural traits are best for the company?  If we are to assume (probably naively) that these organizations are not using cultural fit measures to exclude job candidates based on race, gender, age and so on, then we can surmise that their cultural fit requirements are based on personality.  How does the hiring manager accurately determine if the candidate has the right personality?

For instance, I’ve worked with search consultants and hiring managers in the past who clearly like outgoing and bold sales people.  Makes sense right?  If I’m hiring a sales person who needs to regularly interact with clients and prospects, then I don’t want to hire a shy introvert who may burn out too quickly.  But what if the employee’s excessive boldness causes them to act recklessly or irrationally?  Maybe they are so outgoing that they talk too much or show-off.  Perhaps they are bold but during the interview you missed the fact that they were also accommodating.  Well what’s wrong with being accommodating you might ask?  An accommodating individual while often helpful could also be a push-over or a doormat.  In the world of sales being a slave to the customer is a huge detriment.

Many hiring managers claim to know within the first five minutes of meeting a candidate whether they are a good fit for the role.  How can any hiring manager determine in five minutes whether a candidate is too accommodating, too bold or too selfish?  I don’t really believe they can, which leads me to suspect that the candidate is being judged more for appearance and general body language than personality.  A recent study by the University of Iowa showed that job candidates with good handshakes were considered to be the most hireable.  This evidence suggests that if you have a good handshake you have already given yourself a leg up in the first ten seconds.

If everyone is hiring for culture then how do handshakes come into play?  How as a job candidate am I to know how to shake the hiring manager’s hand to let them know I fit the culture?  I mean what if I shake it too hard!  What if my hands are too soft or too calloused?  What if the hiring manager has big, meaty paws and completely swallows my small hand?  Will I not get the job?  On that note what if in the first five minutes I cross my legs in too manly a manner.  What if I wear a tie but the company is so hip they don’t wear ties.  What if I mention that I like the Miami Dolphins football team but the hiring manager hates mammals?  Gasp!  What happened to the good ole days when people were hired for their skills!

A recent Gallup poll suggested that 46% of new hires fail within the first 18 months mostly for attitudinal reasons.  If so many people are hiring for cultural fit but 46% of the workforce is leaving in eighteen months, then a whole lot of people are missing something.

So here is what is happening.  The hiring manager shakes your hand, looks you up and down and then decides based on your smile and interests whether you are the type of guy/gal they would want to hang out with.  If yes, you’re hired.  If not, “thank you we’ll be in touch.”  I know that sounds cold because just like in a relationship we all want to be accepted for who we are.  We can’t stand to think that we didn’t get the job because we’re not the guy or gal with whom the boss wants to throw back a cold one.  Bottom line – it’s a crapshoot.  Cheer up though, the position will be open again in 18 months.


About The Author

Ryder Cullison

Ryder has more than 10 years of experience working with retained search clients as a search professional. As a pioneer of Interview4 he has great knowledge of video interviewing. He writes about all things hiring and looks forward to engaging with his audience on topics of leadership, recruiting, candidate screening, and employee satisfaction. Follow him on Twitter: @hireintelligent and @cullison1

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