How important is cultural fit now?
Wondering about the role culture should play when you’re hiring?

Every workplace, business or organisation has a culture – whether we’re fully aware of it or not. This kind of culture is made up of the shared values, attitudes and behaviours of employees and leaders.

Making cultural fit part of the hiring process can help guide you towards the right candidate, says SEEK's Resident Psychologist Sabina Read.

It’s worth taking the time to understand your own organisation’s values, and the values of your candidates when hiring.

Watch the video below for Read’s advice on considering cultural fit when you’re hiring.

Culture and values matter to candidates

Your organisation’s culture is important to employees. A great culture can be the thing that sets it apart from competitors – and entices candidates to come on board.

Candidates are increasingly looking for organisations that align with their own values. Research conducted on behalf of SEEK shows, for example, that nearly two in three candidates believe transparency and honesty from leadership contributed most to establishing a sense of belonging at work.

Why cultural fit is important

Hiring candidates who’ll be able to work well within the culture of your organisation can make for a better experience for them, and for the broader business.

“When we hire someone who’s not a great cultural fit, they feel like a square peg in a round hole,” says Read.

This could lead to that person feeling a sense of uncertainty and discomfort as they go about their job. And ultimately, it could contribute to a sense of dissatisfaction among employees, and potentially a higher turnover rate.

Be open to candidates who operate differently

Cultural fit is not about limiting your choices to candidates who are just like everyone else in the organisation.

Read says hiring managers often assume they need to find someone who fits the same mould as other employees – but that’s not necessarily the case.

“When we’re hiring for cultural fit, it’s common to think that we need to find someone who is a lot like us,” she explains.

“But we can find an employee who shares our values and our vision but operates quite differently than the way we do.”

Define your culture

Making sure the culture of your business or organisation is clearly defined from the get-go will make for a smoother hiring process when it comes to cultural fit.

Take the time to work out your company values, and make sure they’re clearly outlined in job ads. That will do some of the upfront work in attracting candidates who are a good fit for your organisation.

Clearly defined values will also give candidates the opportunity to show in their applications and interviews how they align with these values, or how they’ve demonstrated them in previous roles.

Two key culture questions to ask during an interview

When you want to gain insight into whether a candidate will fit well within your organisation’s culture, there are two key questions to ask:

  1. What kind of environment makes you the most productive and happy?
    Some candidates might prefer a formal, structured working environment – and they may really thrive in that setting – while others might enjoy working in a more casual workplace.
  2. What kind of leadership style makes you thrive?
    While some candidates might prefer to have a lot of autonomy as they work, others may operate best with a lot of collaboration, accountability or with a clear, structured hierarchy.

“At the end of the day where there is more than one human, there is a culture,” Read says. Culture matters to candidates, and people are increasingly looking to be part of a business where they feel they can align with the values.

By considering cultural fit as part of the hiring process, you’ll be helping to ensure a positive experience for new employees – and your organisation – by bringing them into a culture they can thrive in.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature on behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4000 Kiwis annually. Published April 2021.