Is There a Gap Between Your Culture and Your Recruiting Practices?

Photo by

Is there a gap between your recruiting practices and your culture?

In today’s economy, even organizations of modest scope can expect many willing and qualified applicants for every open position. So if your small to mid-sized company is hiring, you may think you’re sitting pretty, and you may be tempted to snap up candidates who appear most qualified by reason of their resumes.

A word of caution: in bringing talented performers in the door, you shouldn’t forget the workplace environment into which you’re releasing them. No matter how impressive a candidate’s background and apparent qualifications, a mismatch with your corporate culture can turn a seemingly stellar candidate into a sullen short-timer or, worse, a disgruntled naysayer.

Fitting candidates with your company values

That’s exactly why many organizations consider cultural fit when they hire. And why you should too, especially if your workforce is relatively small–considering the potential damage an ill-advised selection can inflict on productivity and morale. So it’s generally a good idea to run the resume review and interview processes with an eye on the potential fit between your candidate’s values and expectations and the authentic attributes of your company’s culture.

Bob Duffy

In some organizations, this approach runs counter to standard practice, and is viewed as a redundant exercise if a candidate’s talent and experience clearly shine through his or her resume. In the everyday working world, however, this extra step goes right to future productivity and teamwork. And it’s a best practice that can save you likely disruptions down the road.

A company’s culture can create productive engagement or — when an otherwise qualified individual doesn’t mesh with the prevailing environment —  obstructive disenchantment. Culture is a distinctive amalgam of company strategy, policy, work habits, and, yes, values. A given corporate culture often embodies its own approach to teamwork, to institutional knowhow, and to relationships on the job and off.

And while an organization’s culture may seem difficult to pin down in hard, quantitative terms, visit any workplace and — if you observe attentively — you’re likely to walk away with a strong inkling of what the organization’s culture is like.

Corporate values inspire workplace performance

Consider, as convenient examples among many others, companies like Google, Zappos, Nordstrom, and UPS. It’s a good bet that you have some notion about what it’s like to work at each of these companies, about their workplace environments, and about the corporate values that govern or inspire performance there.

Are there distinct cultural differences among them? Of course there are. Each company values the attributes of its working culture, and each consciously recruits for cultural fit.

Article Continues Below

Of course, they’re all big players and can afford to be selective in hiring, and even in consciously analyzing and shaping their cultures through formal programs, many of them quite costly and time consuming. But a smaller company or organization can get a handle on the essential elements of its own culture without going to these lengths, and certainly without commissioning exhaustive cultural analyses or complex OD programs.

Alert observation and a habit of participating attentively in the working life of your organization are the critical ingredients here. If you’re a manager, or work in HR and/or recruiting functions, you’re likely doing this to some extent already.

Your real-world culture must match expectations

It’s often as simple as opening your eyes to the workplace: is your culture formal, hierarchical, and buttoned-up … or casual, collegial, and egalitarian? Is it a meetings-oriented or an email-driven culture? A culture where creativity and innovation is prized? One of solitary production or collective give-and-take?

While these categories are far too simplistically antithetical to serve as anything but top-level examples, I think you see where I’m going here. You can commission employee surveys or focus groups if you choose. But if you’re a small to mid-size enterprise, these formal methods are only likely to validate the evidence of your eyes, ears, and intuition.

This self-conscious cultural awareness can pay dividends when you are hiring. If you emphasize your cultural characteristics in your recruiting communications — online, written and oral — you can draw the interest of talented candidates personally attracted to the signature workplace experience you offer. But perhaps more importantly, from the management standpoint, factoring a consciousness of your company’s working culture into recruiting and hiring decisions is an eminently sensible strategic business practice.

If your real-world culture doesn’t match the expectations that your recruiting efforts have spawned, can you reasonably expect even talented and motivated performers among your new hires to stick around for long, let alone contribute productively to the future success of the company?

Bob Duffy is founder and principal at Insight Consulting, LLC, which specializes in corporate culture, research, and brand development. His teams have worked with the ITT Corporation, Verizon Communications, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Navy Recruitment Command, and the U.S. Army Reserve, among many others.

A committed advocate of brands based on shared values and substantive intellectual capital, he holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Catholic University of America and the University of Maryland.