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  • Laura Marciano Sawh

Hiring for Culture Fit

Culture is such an intimate and important item for a manager to gauge when hiring. New hires are a major influencer on the shape, skill and morale of the team. It can take months to recover from the mistake of a bad culture fit. I’ve learned a few lessons along the way about some key characteristics in my star agents versus the ones that just left nothing but a scar on the team.

There are always a few key questions I ask myself and my staff to verify during the hiring process:

Would I be ok with this person potentially becoming my superior one day?If this person were explaining their new role to someone they met in a bar, would they be able to effectively communicate what the mission of the company is? How enthusiastic would they be?Would I want to have a beer or go to lunch with this person?

For the right candidate, the answer to all of the above are a resounding “Yes!”. Then you have other key behavioral questions, such as:

“What motivates you? Money, Perks or Recognition?”“How does it make you feel when a customer is angry?”“What websites do you like to read?”

I always make “What motivates you?” a required question during the initial application process. I have found that candidates tend to show their true colors while bulk applying for jobs. Take these rationals with a grain of salt, as I am generalizing here and using what works for me.


Money means they will up and leave you in a lurch for a higher paying position.

Perks is ok, but what if you don’t have many, or what if the company has to cut back?

Recognition is the winner in my book — this represents hard work and someone that is willing to stick it out during rough times in the company.


Again, these are generalizations, but I have to say that these answers often do play out in the long run. I’ve hired a few people who marked that they were very motivated by money, and after a few weeks in the position, decided to leap to a better offer just because there was a higher salary attached to it. They even note in their exit interviews that they loved the company, but money was the most important to them.

Zappos has an amazing initiative called “The Offer” where this kind of comes into play. They will offer new hires $3,000 to quit after their first week — about 2–3% actually take the offer (see: http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/stories/2008-09-16/why-zappos-offers-new-hires-2-000-to-quitbusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice)

I can almost say with complete certainty that the agents that chose money as their answer and left within the first few weeks would have absolutely taken that offer. Of course, the goal is to never get to that point where we even think about hiring someone that is not 100% committed to the company, but it has happened — especially with entry level positions.


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