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The Science Behind a Good Cultural Fit

interview candidate being assessed for cultural fit
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When it comes to building a successful team, finding the right cultural fit is just as important as hiring for skills and experience. But what exactly is the science behind assessing cultural fit, and how can organizations get it right?

The Importance of Assessing Cultural Fit

Cultural fit has been an important element of hiring decisions for many years. Research has shown that hiring too many people who fit the organization’s culture stereotype can lead to businesses that take a very narrow view and fall subject to groupthink. An organizational culture where a sense of artificial harmony develops and team members are not willing to challenge bad ideas.

With the increased emphasis that organizations are placing on diversity hiring, “culture add” has replaced “culture fit.” Companies are now asking, “Will this person round out our perspective and bring unique and different ideas to the table? Will they help us challenge our innate assumptions and biases and ask questions we would not even think of asking?”

Pre-employment assessments allow you to see how potential candidates add to your culture and can take out some biases that are inherent in human judgment. By assessing a candidate’s personality for things like open-mindedness, flexibility, empathy, and tolerance for diverging viewpoints, you can bring individuals into the organization that will work to expand inclusive and diverse thinking, versus being closed off to ideas that do not fit their worldview.

What if They Seemed Like a Good Cultural Fit?

We’ve heard from clients, “I have had candidates who did well through the recruitment process and even interviewed great, but then six months into the job turned out to be disasters. How can I spot when someone is too good to be true?”

There are several possible explanations for this type of scenario. First, the applicant was on their best behavior. There are certainly potential candidates who are good at turning on the charm and telling us what we want to hear, but this behavior is not sustainable in the work environment. They know how to “look good” in the interview and may even be able to keep that façade on for the first few months of the job, but then the candidate’s natural personality starts to show in their work style.  

Choosing a partner to run personality assessments can help you see if someone is trying too hard to make a good impression. This “faking good” profile is a red flag that what you see may not be what you get in the long run.

A second common cause of someone’s behaviors shifting after being on the job is the presence of “career derailers.” These are negative traits and attributes that interfere with career success and job satisfaction. Examples might include being highly defensive when given feedback; being overly aggressive and argumentative; or on the other hand, being unwilling or unable to lean into conflict, or being “too nice.” 

While these behaviors will not typically surface in job interviews, the combination of cultural fit assessments and in-depth behavioral interviews by consultants with a Ph.D. in psychology can often uncover their potential and help you find the right cultural fit for the role. 

Evaluate Cultural Fit During the Interview Process

Interviews have been, and still are, the primary means of hiring people. Unfortunately for most interviewers, when used as the sole method for making hiring decisions, they are not the most effective way to select the right new hire. Interviewers often fall prey to many traps that negatively impact their ability to make unbiased selection decisions. Statistics show the average interviewer makes up their mind about a candidate in the first 3 minutes of the interview and spends the rest of the time justifying that decision. 

By training your hiring managers and talent acquisition team members in behavioral-based interviewing and arming them with the tools they need, you can improve the effectiveness of your hiring process and more confidently hire what is needed in your culture. Chapman & Co. experts help leaders from across the organization to develop their interviewing skills by focusing on the competencies that matter for the job and your company culture and steering away from irrelevant or sometimes even outright illegal interview questions. 

Knowing a Candidate’s Cultural Fit  

Pre-employment assessments have provided valuable insights for more than 100 years and are backed by research showing they are strong predictors of employee success. Testing for these critical decision-making metrics takes the bias out of the hiring process by looking at the traits, characteristics, and competencies the potential candidate brings to the table as well as how well they match up with the job requirements, your company’s current and/or desired workplace culture, and your company’s values.  

Pre-employment tests also give you insight into motivation and drive, emotional intelligence, aptitude for problem-solving, and analytical thinking. All facets of human behavior that are important for job success and work culture alignment.

Whether you’re already using or ready to introduce pre-employment assessments into your hiring process, contact Chapman & Co. Ph.D. experts today and ensure you’re hiring what you need for your company culture.

Meet the Author

David Weller

Senior Partner

For the past 25 years, David has had a passion for helping clients take the guesswork out of their hiring and development practices.

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Melinda Bremley


Melinda leverages her 25+ years as a Ph.D. consultant to guide organizations in establishing and refining robust predictive assessment systems and developmental tools.

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