When Skills Aren’t Enough: Decoding Cultural Fit

IT AdvisorEngine Job Search, Personal Branding

At Kredible, we do a lot of research. In our newest survey, from July 2015, we asked hiring managers across the country how a candidate’s online presence affects the hiring process.

Decision-makers told us that among their reasons for eliminating a candidate from consideration are:

  •      The candidate did not have a compatible work style. (50% of respondents)
  •      The candidate had not worked with companies like ours. (38% of respondents)

Unlike years of experience or desired certifications, these two factors are harder to define. They both fall under the fuzzy category of “cultural fit.”

Why Cultural Fit Matters, To You and To Employers

There is cause for concern that cultural fit is a way to discriminate (here, here and here, for starters), but the way we’ll use it here is to describe shared values and beliefs. Simply put, culture fit is what makes you choose one company over another the difference between going to just any job and liking your job. (Here’s a great perspective on cultural fit from Erika Andersen in Forbes.)

From a company’s point of view, finding a cultural fit is a matter of the bottom line. This report from the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation details the costs of turnover, from retention attempts and accrued time off to hiring inducements and training. Losing employees is a pricey habit.

Finding Out What Fits

So what are employers looking for when they advertise for cultural fit? A startup may be in search of someone who doesn’t need or want a lot of direction. Someone who likes an involved manager would be frustrated there. (There are our “compatible work styles.”) A company that runs on process and procedure would have conflicts with someone who doesn’t see the importance of checking off every box — and that employee would be equally irritated. (Checkmark for “companies like ours.”)

But let’s go bigger than that. If I’m a hiring manager with Seventh Generation or Patagonia, I’m looking for an employee whose passion for sustainability matches ours. If our core values and beliefs align, differences in thinking styles and working behaviors are a source of creativity, not resentment.

Rather than trying to position yourself as the answer to all needs of all employers, devote time to defining your perfect fit. Do you work best in a structured or flexible environment? Does the word “chaos” inspire you or make you anxious? Are you a cautious decision maker or a quick one? Where do you find your sense of purpose: technology, service, community?

Our body of research indicates that one of the biggest mistakes a candidate can make is try to be all things to all employers. In trying to please everyone, you may well dilute the qualities that make you stand out. A softball team who’s in desperate need of a great pitcher will skip right over a good, all-around player.

What Your Social Media Says About Your Fit

The hiring decision makers in our study determined the elements we mentioned — compatible work style and experience with similar companies — purely from a candidate’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and general Internet presence. They made a decision about someone’s fit in the company before they ever met them, and it wasn’t based on the skills listed on a resume.

At Kredible, we consider that a golden opportunity for a job-seeker. Especially if you’re making a career transition — going from corporate to startup, or military to corporate — your concern may be persuading a hiring decision-maker through your online presence that you’re a culture and values fit for them.

Discover exactly what hiring decision makers are looking for — and how to position your online presence to help them find it. Kredible has the research and insight to help you attract your dream job.