When our clients start business coaching, it’s not uncommon to hear, “I only want one thing: for you to help me hire better people.”
If it were that easy, every business would be full of thriving teams.
As a business owner, you know it’s not. Finding and hiring great employees is hard work, perhaps even the hardest part of your job. Recruiting and interviewing can be exhausting, and making a hiring mistake is one of the greatest expenses your business can incur. The costs associated with taking the time to interview, onboard, and train people in your way—that is, the way of your business—are enormous. And to then have an employee not work out can feel crushing.
So it shouldn’t surprise you that finding and retaining good people—the right people for your company—is a key frustration for most business owners. It’s not an easy thing, but you can improve your chances by making one simple yet major adjustment: Stop hiring purely for skills, and start hiring for culture. Here’s how.
Determine your values
Everything in your business is connected to your company values. From the way you lead your people to your marketing strategy to product fulfillment, your values live in all aspects of your organization. And no one is going to do the work of defining those but you.
In the EMyth Program, we first identify your personal core values—the ones you stand for more than anything else. Maybe you know yours very well, but if not, there are many core value lists out there to help you find them.
Say you identify community as a value you live by. Now ask yourself: Is this something I want to apply to my company? Chances are the answer is “yes,” because your company is a reflection of you.
Now, take community and translate it into a company value. Community is paramount to how you live your life, and you want your business to reflect that. It could show up in many ways—through the benefits you offer employees, through weekly group activities unrelated to work, or through philanthropy in your town or city. When you want one of your personal values to show up in the way you do business, it becomes a core company value.
Aim for at least 3–5 of these. To get there, start by creating your personal list and seeing which translate directly into company values. Not all will, but some must or you’re not creating a company that truly reflects you. And if none of them do, go back and make sure those personal values are really true for you.
Envision the culture you want your business to have
Many business owners don’t truly understand what company culture is, how it’s related to their values, and why it’s important. If you can’t define culture, you can’t build it. Worse, you could unintentionally build a culture that’s based on assumption—your assumption that your employees understand and share your values.
In short, company culture refers to how people behave within your business, and this comes from the shared beliefs of you and your staff. To hire the right people, you must know who you’re looking for—and that should be someone who both has the skills for the role and shares your company values. This is what makes a candidate a good cultural fit.
For example, say you own a restaurant where every team member is responsible for a different prep station. Teamwork is critical to make production flow. And your new salad chef just doesn’t work well on the line. She’s skilled at food prep, but has trouble communicating changes and takes breaks without telling anyone, so everybody else has to scramble to do her work.
This is not an employee issue, it’s a hiring issue. The interview clearly didn’t give enough attention to how the new salad chef would fit into the group or whether she was team-oriented. Overlooking that important value in the hiring process compromised the existing culture in your business.
To build a great team whose way of working is consistent with your values, you need a vision for a company culture you have or want, and to build that into your recruiting and hiring process.
Identify your ideal candidate profile
Choosing an employee based off of their experience, education, and skills alone seems logical—but it’s an unbalanced approach.
You need to consider not only a candidate’s skills and experience, but also their personal qualities: the traits that people bring to any job they might do, such as being resilient, self-motivated, and having a strong work ethic. These are “hardwired,” fundamental characteristics that you generally can’t train.
In the EMyth Program, we use the Ideal Candidate Profile tool to help our clients create a clear and balanced sketch of the candidates who will most likely succeed in both the company and the position.
The profile for each position should include:
- Requisite skills: degree level, training, experience, and specific skills
- Personal qualities
If you want to find the perfect employees, you need to consider both. With just experience, there’s no certainty that this person will work well within your company culture. A candidate’s personal qualities support the cultural structure you’ve worked hard to put in place, the structure you know will deliver the results you want.
Once you’ve created your Ideal Candidate Profile, don’t compromise. As you begin the hiring process, this profile will help you determine the very specific criteria you’re looking for in the perfect employee. The right fit is going to check all those boxes—and your company deserves that.
Write the perfect job posting
With your Ideal Candidate Profile, you have what you need to write a job posting that attracts the candidates you want. So what do you say to appeal to your ideal applicant? And how do you best reach them?
Approach hiring in the same way you do Lead Generation—by using a Marketing Strategy. If you want to hire for cultural fit, you need to create a job post that attracts your ideal candidates based on the values and culture in your company. Thinking back to the example above, the job posting for a salad chef should have underlined the need to be self-accountable, team-oriented, and responsible, with a genuine interest in quality food production.
When you put everything out there in black and white—the requisite skills and the personal qualities you’re looking for—people who don’t fit will self-select out.
Conduct a personality-focused interview
Up to the interview stage of your hiring process, much of the work is about you—your values and the culture you want to create—but the interview is about your applicant and whether they embody your company values. We know it’s difficult to discern a candidate’s values in a short interview, but it’s your responsibility to try to draw that information out.
Create Values-Focused Interview Questions
Thinking back to the value of being team-oriented, you should develop questions that dig into actual team experiences that might mirror how your team works, like:
- Can you tell me about your best experience leading or working on a team? What made it great?
- Tell me about a situation where you’ve dealt with differences between team members. How did you handle that?
There are hundreds of possible interview questions you could ask, but you’ll only have time for a fraction of that, so be selective about which you choose. Which questions could give you the most genuine portrait of your candidate as a person?
Have Multiple Interviews
Whenever possible, have more than one person on your leadership team interview your top candidates—preferably after you’ve done a first interview. Meet with your top 7-10 candidates yourself and narrow the pool down to 2-3 people. Then select someone from your management team to have individual time with the applicants. Tell the interviewer to focus on personality, that you want insight on the candidate as a cultural fit. Many times, your team’s impressions of a single applicant will be very different than your own.
Evaluate in the Moment
Take notes and assess your candidate during (or immediately after) the interview. Here’s why: Say your first applicant is just average. You meet, and they're a good—but not great—fit. Afterward, you move to the next interview without writing your evaluation. The second applicant arrives ten minutes late and throughout the whole interview they're distracted, fidgeting with their phone, not giving you all their attention. This person makes the first person look much better. They’ve shifted the bar, and you suddenly are seeing an average candidate through a rosier lens. This is exactly how you end up making a hiring mistake. So take time to evaluate applicants while your perspective is fresh.
If you want a team that cares, one that’s so committed to your business that they’ll work together to meet a goal—whatever it takes—you need to be a leader that fosters and supports a strong company culture. And that includes having a values-driven hiring process.
How have you integrated company culture into your recruitment process? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section.