Cultural Fit of Executive Candidates

by Sabine Steiner in — July 2021
The most successful employees are those who fit into a company's existing workplace culture. Executive Search and Consulting firms face the challenge of getting the right executives into the right roles.
Cultural fit 4

Cultural Fit

The workplace environment is made up of the values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and behaviours that employees in your company share, from management to entry-level employees. This creates a culture that is unique to companies and their workplace. Executive search firms play a vital role in creating and maintaining a healthy culture for their client organisations.

The most successful employees are those who fit into a company's existing workplace culture. Executive Search and Consulting firms face the challenge of getting the right executives into the right roles.

For this to be met, the consultants of the search firms must carefully evaluate both the organization and the potential candidates to determine the culture fit.

What is work culture?

Work culture is the behaviour that results when a group comes to understand how to work together. Culture manifests itself in:

• Expectations of honesty, integrity, loyalty, and performance.

• Definition of cooperation, teamwork, or competitive thinking

• Decision making and priorities

• Stories and legends

• Practices for daily work

• Communication and language

Although corporate culture is influenced by the experiences of each employee, it is particularly influenced by the founder, senior executives, and other leaders of the organization. Managers set the strategic direction and expectations of their workplace. Their behaviour is often mimicked by the employees who work under them, and more likely to be encouraged by workers whose behaviour meets management expectations.

Culture sujet

How can we identify if the candidate is a cultural fit?

#1 Check

The professional background

An important source for determining the cultural adaptation are the previous professional stations of the candidate. Different career paths make it possible to get to know different work environments and to find their way around there. Did the candidate work in an international environment or only in very regional structures? In what type of company was the candidate successful - start-up versus traditional family business?

#2 Check

The interview with the candidate

Talking to the candidate is the most essential part of the hiring process. We don´t like the word "interview" because this conversation should not be a one-way street - no question-answer situation - but an exchange at eye level. An important aspect of conducting a successful dialogue is to put the organization's mission at the centre of the discussion to determine whether the candidate's work style, behaviour and attitude are a good fit for the organization.

The new generation of leaders are highly purpose-driven, and much of the candidate-client culture is driven by mission and values. Therefore, it is particularly important in this phase of the conversation to emphasize the purpose behind the role and the meaning of the work and task.

The much-quoted credo “Hire for Attitude - Train for Skills” should be mentioned in this context, as the “attitude” can be an essential factor for the success of the team to be led, especially at the management level.

#3 Check

References of employers or business partners

References of prior employers can deliver great insights into the candidate’s working style and potential culture fit. It is advisable to obtain several references at a time; Experience has shown that only two or three give a sufficiently balanced picture. Compare these especially in the points that are important for your position or to check statements from other reference providers that you want to secure or verify.

Moreover, it is important to talk to the right contact giving the reference. What function and position does the reference provider have, how objectively and comprehensively can he assess the candidate? Most of the time, it is HR or the line manager who provide the information.

#4 Check

Is the chemistry OK?

"Chemistry" is difficult to define and very often you don't know why the "chemistry" fits or not. We use the term here to denote the correspondence between communication styles and desired characteristics or simply relate to one another and maintain a positive relationship.

The observation of the interactions between the organization or the representatives and the candidate help. As a consulting company, we take on the role of moderator and can assess the “relationship” between the interlocutors. The better the consultant knows the company, the better he can assess in advance whether the culture of the organization and the candidate fit together.