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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

THE IMPORTANCE OF CULTURE FIT

The cover story of Time magazine for the June 22, 2015 issue is all about how companies today are using personality testing in their hiring decisions.  What these companies have discovered is that no matter how well qualified someone is on the technical side, if they cannot work well with others, they are a liability rather than an asset.

My guess is that your elementary school experience was somewhat like my own.  We would get report cards every six weeks (on actual paper!) that had our academic grades on the left side of the page.  We pretty much knew how we were doing by seeing letter grades that showed our mastery of the subject.  On the other side of the page however, was where our social skills were assessed.  That side of the page measured things like "Pays Attention in Class," "Arrives on Time," and a few other components of functioning well in the classroom.  The letters that appeared on that side of the page were "S" (Satisfactory), "I" (Needs Improvement), or "U" (Unsatisfactory).

Of all the social skills measured, the biggest one then and the biggest one now are the same: "Works and Plays Well with Others."  When companies ask applicants to go through one the many assessments that are available, they want to know how well that person will be able to work with others who are already there and how well they will interact with those outside the organization (vendors, customers, stakeholders).   The term most often used to describe this capacity is "Culture Fit."

Why are companies suddenly putting such importance on culture fit?  Because they can.  We are in a strong buyer's market now in the employment arena.  That means that there are more great candidates than great jobs, so companies can afford to be very selective...and they are.  The cost of a bad hire can run into the tens of thousands of dollars (or more) when you consider what a company will spend training the individual, the time it takes for the new employee to actually become productive, and the opportunity cost incurred when a few months down the road it becomes apparent that they hired the wrong person and now they have to go through the whole process again.   The time spent with the wrong person in the position can never be made up.

In most cases, a bad hire has an impact significantly beyond their own responsibilities.  If that person, for example, causes others to have to fix things they messed up, or causes other employees productivity to decline by having to wait on the offender's job to be done before they can do their own, the negative impact of the bad hire can spread outward immeasurably.

This can be particularly harmful in the sales side of the business.  One of the oldest and time-tested phrases in business is that "People buy from people they like."  It really is true.  Product knowledge is certainly important, but it pales next to the "likeability" factor.  If customers do not like the person who is calling on them, they will find a reason to do business somewhere else.  A reasonably intelligent person can get the product knowledge and the industry knowledge usually in a few months at most, but if that person does not get along well with others, the impact on sales can be devastating.

Why is this important in the job market today?  It's very simple...if your resume looks pretty and is well-formatted but does not have anything that give the hiring authority any knowledge about your character, creativity, work ethic, resilience, attention to detail (or whatever is critical to success in the position you are seeking), you are at a decided disadvantage compared to those who do share that information on their resumes.

Interviewing and hiring is time-consuming and expensive.  Managers want to eliminate as much risk as possible when choosing the candidates they will interview.  If you take some of the guess-work out of process, you have a much better chance of being one of those that they want to speak with about the job.  They will most likely do their own assessments on you as well in some point in the process, but you have to be one of the chosen few to get to that point.

The takeaway here?  If you are preparing your resume, or if you are hiring a professional to do it for you, be sure to include what companies want to see today.  Ask yourself, "What qualities are common to those who are outstanding at this job?'  Then, ask yourself how many of those qualities you have.  Where you see a match, put it on your resume.

Ken Murdock is the owner of Murdock and Associates Recruiters and New Wave Resumes, and the author of Your Completed Guide to Job Search and Career Change. He recruits top talent in sales, project management, accounting/finance, manufacturing operations, and engineering for the manufacturing sector, oil & gas, and construction industries. New Wave Résumés offers professional résumés and interview coaching for executives, mid-level professionals, recent graduates, and anyone seeking to take their skills and talents to a higher level.