When Hiring Temps, Be Sure They Are a Cultural Fit

Article main image
Mar 16, 2017

Let’s say you have a short-term, mission-critical project and your team is missing some specialized skills. Or maybe you need someone who can fill in for a team member on leave. Or maybe your budget falls short of requisitioning for a full-time employee. Each of these problems can be helped by hiring temporary talent.

Although the “gig economy” has yet to match full-time hiring numbers, it’s becoming the go-to solution for quickly augmenting teams with high-quality talent.

But before you hire someone because they have the skills, consider your company culture.

Cultural alignment can make a huge difference in performance outcomes. If you’re not considering whether or not your candidates — permanent or temporary — are going to be a good cultural fit, then you’re setting your company and your candidates up for potential failure. And when your position is temporary, the talent needs to get up and running quickly, so the value of cultural alignment for those candidates may be even greater than for permanent hires.

“Will this candidate thrive in our organization?”

Cultural fit hasn’t always been such an overt consideration.

The concept of company culture is only as new as the mid-20th century, when post-Industrial Revolution psychologists started proposing theories on how jobs could be performed more efficiently

As we rocketed through the 1970s and into the 1980s, corporate America arrived at a new plateau of corporate culture, boosting our productivity, quality, and efficiency.

Fast forward to the present day, and we’re seeing an unprecedented alignment between personal values and professional employment. Job seekers and HR professionals alike have emphasized “cultural fit” as one of the most important factors when taking a job or making a new hire.

“What is my corporate culture?”

If you don’t know what your company culture is — buckle up! — it’s time to get introspective. Is your company fast-paced? Conservative? Innovative? How diverse is your organization? Is the culture inclusive? What does your company value?

There are a ton of factors to consider, check out the TLNT article “Is Your Culture the One You Want?” The article does a great job illustrating that culture is a real business issue and not just a nice-to-have.

Organizational culture is one overarching layer, and team culture is another. But keep in mind, team culture is just as important as organizational culture. Within your team, is there an emphasis on teamwork, communication, and bringing the team together, or do you tend to work as independent players? Be sure to consider team-level cultural layers within the aggregate culture of your organization.

Your recruitment playbook

Now you that you know why cultural fit is important and have at least a sense of what your company culture is, how do you make sure you hire the right temporary talent for the job?

The job description — Translate your company values into “soft skills” qualities your talent must possess. If a fundamental part of your company culture is open communication, then the job description might include phrases like, “Comfortable collaborating with all levels of management.”

Pre-interview reflection — Before your interviews, think about the most important aspects of your organizational and team culture — for example, work ethic, environment, and work hours. With this lens, ask questions during the interview to ensure the candidate has a perspective that fits well with your culture.

Here are some questions to gauge cultural fit:

  • “Why do you want to work for us?” — If your candidate responds by saying, for example, they think the opportunity will afford them more flexibility in working independently, think about your work culture and whether it allows employees autonomy or emphasizes oversight by managers and team leads. Choose a candidate whose answers match your culture.
  • “What is your expectation from this position?” — A candidate who can answer with concrete goals, has a vision for their career and recognizes how your engagement aligns, is likely a good candidate. Skills can be taught; clarity of vision can’t.
  • “In what kind of work environment do you feel most successful and productive?” — You might ask this question to gauge whether the candidate prefers to work in a team, solo, or in some combination of the two. See how your candidate’s answer aligns with your organizational and team culture and the specific position for which he or she is interviewing.
  • “Tell me about your previous managers and their strengths and limitations.” — The way your candidate describes previous managers will provide some insight into their values and cultural preferences. For example, your candidate may have liked the way a previous boss appreciated their ideas. Reflect on your culture to determine whether your organization’s culture is one in which this person will receive recognition for contributing ideas.