There’s a lot of pressure on growing businesses and even larger companies to hire for cultural fit. Alarming new findings show that poor cultural fit due to turnover can cost companies between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary, a cost startups and small businesses can’t afford. As Nathan Parcells, founder and CMO of Looksharp, explained to Smart Recruiters, “Hiring for a startup means finding candidates with the perfect skill and culture fit. You have to say no to even the best applicants if they aren’t going to gel with your team and create an environment conducive to solving the large problems your early-stage company will need to tackle on a regular basis.”
As a result, there’s now a push for HR technology to help professionals make better decisions based on cultural fit. But everything comes with a price, and businesses should be aware that cultural fit, while a great thing to have, isn’t always enough. When it comes to cultural fit, our motto has always been “you can sit with us, but you better bring something to the table.” Growing companies need more than someone who fits in with the team. And hiring someone who fits in too well can end up adding to an already over-talkative, boundary-crossing office.
Who would you rather hire: a person who fits in well but is mediocre at their job, or someone who nobody cares to go to happy hour with, but is a productive genius and makes an impact? If you chose the latter, read on to see the skills growing businesses need in today’s environment:
Critical thinking is like an umbrella. You don’t really notice its necessity until it’s pouring outside, and by then it’s too late. Employees without critical thinking skills who require their work to be spoon fed to them aren’t completely useless, but they’re not what growing businesses need.
A study found that less than 50% of employers agree that new college graduates will come to the job with the problem-solving skills they need, yet 69% of college students think they’re prepared to solve business challenges. Why the disconnect? While college students may be overestimating themselves, the truth lies in the data. The employers know from ample experience that the perception is true and are increasingly mistrustful of universities to give their entry-level workers the skills they need to solve real business challenges.
If you’re looking to hire employees with critical thinking skills, you’re going to need to assign a pre-hire project. Don’t just take the candidate’s word for it, put them to the test and let them show you how they accept challenges and work through them. It’s like showing your work in math class. Anyone can learn what to say in an interview, but can they actually perform? These projects can be short and sweet, or lengthier and more complicated (in which case, pay the candidate for their time), but they should give clear direction, a desired result, a quantifiable deliverable and a firm due date.
A Proactive Approach
Businesses from startup size to Fortune 500 don’t have time for chronic complainers. We need solvers and optimistic ones at that. Employees who make excuses or point out other’s mistakes without taking action to either help fix those mistakes or help assist or train the offender to not make the same mistake again are damaging your company. This reactive approach to work is destructive and leads to chaos. Your company needs employees who can anticipate the needs of their coworkers, clients and the organization overall.
But how can you tell from an interview if you’re going to bring on another complaining, excuse-making, reactive employee? It’s a traditional question and not very unique, but it sure does tell you a lot of the candidate: “Tell me about a time where you had an issue with a project, client, coworker, etc. and how you overcame it.” If you find yourself listening to a laundry list of people who wronged them, you should walk the other way.
Seeing the Big Picture
Sometimes it takes years of experience to see the big picture of a project or organizational goal, and other times it just takes the right person. Not everybody is cut out to see the big picture, and many often get overwhelmed and ridden with too many details. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to ask the candidate where they see themselves in five years. Truthfully, not everyone needs a strategic mindset to be a valuable employee. But as a manager, you must know where to place them in the organization. Of course, when you’re hiring for an office full of tacticians, you’ll need a strategist.
In this case, the best option is to ask questions about the industry your company is in. For instance, we mostly work in HR technology, so when I interview, I ask candidates what they know about the industry. The ones who understand that despite the complicated landscape and the flurry of acronyms, at its core, our clients help people find and love the work they do? I know that’s the right person for the job.