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Why we believe hiring for skills over culture fit is a mistake

Culture over skill

How to achieve genuine insight into whether a candidate will fit our company culture is something we obsess about constantly at Striata.

In our organization, we’ve learnt time and time again, that appointing skills over culture fit is a mistake that will cost the business in the long run. We’re always working to improve our recruitment process, because recognizing whether the non-negotiable qualities are present in a personality is of critical importance to preserving our organizational culture.

Once we’ve assessed a candidate’s skills, experience and potential in the messaging space; we like to get down to the nitty gritty to decide if they will be a super-hero within the Striata culture.

Determine your non-negotiable qualities upfront

If I had to pick four key qualities that I look for in a candidate, they would be: positivity, accountability, logic and service.   For each organization, the fundamental personality traits that embody the culture may differ to ours, but I’d argue that the difficulty in determining whether your non-negotiable traits are present through a traditional interview process is the same.

Take a fresh look at the tools you have

It’s incredibly tricky to determine whether a candidate fundamentally owns these four qualities during a 45 minute interview.  Unless we’re constantly improving our skills at assessing a personality in a short time, the traditional interview can feel a bit hit and miss.

But by taking a fresh look at things like first impression, how they answer questions, body language and questions they ask, we enhance our ability to extract the right clues to assess the culture fit. Here’s how:

1. First impression: We look for top candidates and this usually means they will have had many interviews, so it’s not just our first impression of the candidate but also about us making a great first impression too! We want to promote Striata as an Employer of Choice. If the candidate matches our culture and presents with top skills, we want to stand out from the crowd.

Tip: The candidate typically owns the first impression by presenting what they want us to see by way of how they are dressed, what tech they carry and how they greet the interviewer. I try to move past this quickly by doing something unexpected to change the dynamic:  ask a totally ‘off the wall’ question before we even sit down or offer them a cupcake or smoothie.

2. Handling questions: Digital messaging is a fast-moving, ever-changing art form. We need to know our candidates are ready for any challenge and that they will execute any task with perfection. We have found that using a number of scenario-based questions that reveal a person’s family values, attitude to money and how they naturally deal with stress gives us great insight into how much care they will apply to their work.

Tip: Try avoid obvious interview questions when assessing culture fit. You don’t want to see the ‘practiced’ person; you want to see the genuine person. Use hypothetical scenarios and ask what the person would do. This gives great insight. Take note of how they react to the unexpected questions and whether they give themselves over to the exercise.

3. Body language & reactions: As a global company, we can’t always conduct all our interviews face-to-face. Using video on an interview call can also provide useful insight. Plus any unexpected technical glitches give us a chance to assess if candidates are calm and can trouble-shoot on the fly. Let’s face it – we are looking for the super-heroes of digital messaging, so a love of tech is part of that criteria!

Tip:  How a person responds to a question is only part verbal. Their body language can literally shout clues at you. Are they squirming uncomfortably or relaxing into the moment? As I’ve improved in reading these clues, I often redirect the interview to really hone in on a quality that I am either looking to hire (positivity), or to avoid (negativity).

4. Questions they ask: We need to feel candidates know who we are – it’s not just about the job, it’s about providing a place where they can be their best. If our candidates have spent some time researching us it shows up in their questions. Assessing culture fit is more an art than a science and it requires constant attention and enhancement.

Tip: Always give a candidate the chance to drive the meeting. I usually do this halfway through the interview for a quick change of direction, and to see if they revert to prepared questions, or are able to continue in the tone already set for the interview. What they ask, how they ask it, and how they respond to answers will all add to the picture.

I recently saw a quote by Zig Ziglar that sums up why we’re so fanatical about company culture at Striata (tweeted by @ronnieapteker):

“You don’t build a business. You build people and then people build the business.”

What is your secret to determining whether a candidate will fit your specific culture?

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