Hiring for Cultural Fit Helps Shape Company Identity

Susan Hall

My colleague Ann All wrote about Zappos' practice of asking job candidates to rank their weirdness on a scale of one to 10. That's because one of Zappos' core values is "create fun and a little weirdness."


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Ann wrote that Meridee Moore, founder of hedge fund Watershed Asset Management, likes to hire candidates who have experienced a setback and recovered from it. The company is focused on hiring people who can make good decisions. Moore explained about setbacks:

I think it helps you make better decisions. There's nothing better for sharpening your ability to predict outcomes than living through some period when things went wrong. You learn that events aren't in your control and no matter how smart you are and how hard you work, you have to anticipate things that can go against you.

When I spoke with Chris Galy, Intuit's recruiting director, he told me that companies absolutely can interview for fit with company values. He said:

You can assess that just as you would look at any other competency Our first value is "integrity without compromise." We could ask questions about times when their own personal values or the values of the company seemed to be in competition with a particular business outcome. You can dig into values. We've all had life experiences when we've had to make values and judgment decisions. ...

In a post on Harvard Business Review, though, Alan Lewis, owner of Grand Circle Travel, advocates the show-don't tell method. He says:

You can learn a lot more about a person from watching him or her interact with other job applicants and employees. At Grand Circle, our process includes a group interview, in which multiple candidates interview for various open jobs at the same time. We observe candidates undertaking unique and often quirky challenges, and interacting with each other. Candidates act out scenarios that show us whether or not they exhibit our core values-open and courageous communication, risk-taking, speed, quality, teamwork and thriving in change.

These "challenges" include requiring groups of candidates to design a "travel vessel" for a raw egg, to "sell" the trip on this vessel and also to drop the vessel from about 10 feet. I know many who would agree with this post: What does all this craziness prove?


Lewis writes:

From this exercise, we're able to quickly learn which candidates exhibit leadership and teamwork qualities, which ones perform well in unusual situations, and which have done their background research on the company.

Lewis makes two other points about interviewing for cultural fit:


Given the cost of replacing an employee-it's reported to be 50 to 200 percent of that worker's annual salary -as Lewis says:

Employees who do not adhere to a shared corporate culture dilute it, detracting from the essence that gives your company its identity and helps it achieve aggressive goals. ... Hiring good cultural matches is the best way to assure the continued success of your company.

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