Hire By Design For Workplace Culture Fit

By Diane Domeyer, Executive Director, The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms.

Your top candidate checks every single box you have when it comes to technical skills and experience. It sounds like a no-brainer — you should immediately offer them the job, right? Not necessarily.

There’s one more question you need to ask yourself: Are they a good fit with your corporate culture?

When interviewing and vetting creative professionals, evaluating their fit with your office culture is as important as assessing their digital portfolio, Photoshop proficiency and communication skills. The wrong person in the wrong job can cause a cascade of problems, especially in the creative field. Having just one team member who’s not on the same page, repeatedly drops the ball or is prone to personality clashes can cause lower productivity, derail projects, damage relations with other departments and decrease morale.

Don’t risk bringing in someone who might create discord on your team — follow these seven steps for hiring people who match your workplace culture.

• Show your style at the outset. The hiring process begins with a persuasive and detailed job description that reflects your company’s personality and values. Is the organization formal and traditional or fun-loving and casual? Wherever your corporate culture falls on the spectrum, make sure it’s reflected in the interview process so applicants have a good idea of what to expect if they’re brought in. Your goal is to attract well-suited candidates while weeding out those seeking a different sort of workplace.

•  Give out referral incentives. Like attracts like. You increase the chances of hiring someone who’ll mesh with your team when current employees — people who already work well on the team — recommend others for the job. Just make sure you emphasize to your employees that you’re looking for personality fit as much as strong technical skills. A financial bonus to staff whose referrals result in successful hires, payable after a pre-determined amount of time has passed to make sure those new employees work out, is standard for this type of program.

•  Ask the right questions. After you’ve found the best candidates on paper, it’s time to see if the chemistry’s right. You can do this by asking a combination of situational (based on actual experiences) and hypothetical questions. For the former, you could ask candidates to describe how they’ve handled a particularly challenging coworker or learned from a mistake. For the latter, an example could be, “How would you describe your ideal work environment? What type of environments are you not interested in?”

•  Note nonverbal and verbal cues. Interviewees’ answers are important, of course, but their behavior and body language may be even more so. Do they make good eye contact, or do they look away and seem bored or fidgety? Are they actively listening, or do they tend to start speaking before you’ve finished? How’s their sense of humor? A skilled interviewer notices all these traits to help them determine whether a job candidate would work well with their team.

•  Get the team’s perspective. Whenever possible, introduce short-listed candidates to a few current employees. This doesn’t mean a 10-member interview committee, which is time-consuming and can be intimidating. Rather, when a potential new hire comes in to interview, ask staff who would be working directly with the person to have a brief conversation with the candidate over coffee or lunch. Then ask for feedback on the candidate’s potential fit in the company. Other people may pick up on traits — both good and ill — that you missed during the interviews.

•  Don’t skip the reference check. Nobody enjoys calling strangers and asking them in-depth questions about their former employees or colleagues. But checking references is a key part of making sure candidates are who they say they are, and there’s no better person to make the phone call than the hiring manager. Have their resume and your interview notes handy so you can ask specific questions about the candidate’s work history. Also find out how the person got along with colleagues and if there were any challenges.

• Consider the temp-to-hire model. To really make sure you hire people who get along with your in-house team, you can test drive their fit in your workplace culture in real time, if they are currently available. Partner with a staffing agency that specializes in the creative field to bring in someone on a contract or freelance basis. Assign them to work on a short-term project. If they enjoy the job and you enjoy working with them, offer them a full-time position. However, remember to move quickly when hiring them. Qualified individuals have options in today’s employment market and most won’t put their search on hold merely for the possibility of a full-time role.

A bad hire squanders time, money and goodwill. By putting corporate culture at the heart of the recruitment process, you maximize your chances of having a great team of creative professionals who work and play well together.