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Cultural Fit - THE success factor in job interviews

11/01/2024 2024/01

It's a match! The search for a compatible relationship - whether personal or professional - is based on similar principles. Companies are actively looking for people who are not only a good match on paper, but whose personality, values and way of working are in tune with the corporate culture. Much like online dating, the aim is to establish a fit on a deeper level than just a professional one.

Cultural fit is not just a buzzword, but a critical success factor in modern recruitment. Companies that consider the cultural fit of their employees not only create a pleasant working environment, but also strengthen their long-term competitiveness. The term "cultural fit" comes from HR psychology and literally means "cultural compatibility". It refers to the values and behaviours of both parties. In the context of recruitment, fit is becoming increasingly important.

Values are more important than CVs

More than half of employees in Germany want a friendly corporate culture, respectful treatment and a sense of belonging. Hard skills and professional qualifications seem to be becoming less important in a world of ever faster change.

Whereas in the past it was only qualifications that mattered in a job interview, today more attention is paid to whether applicants fit in with the corporate culture - and can enrich it with their qualities.

But what exactly does cultural fit mean? How can candidates themselves assess whether their personal cultural fit matches that of the organisation? And how do companies measure cultural fit?

Why personality matters more than expertise

Many companies now believe that while technical knowledge can be acquired, personal attitudes and values are harder to change. As a result, the personal package that each newcomer brings to the company is becoming more important.

If the personality traits and mindset are a good fit, everyone involved has more to gain than if the candidate has only impeccable references. In today's fast-paced world, hard skills may become obsolete in a matter of months, or may need to be updated to reflect the specific role in the company. And it is more effective to know that the new employee can adapt quickly to new situations and represent the company authentically to the outside world.

Focus on cultural fit for Gen Y and Gen Z

Both generations are characterised by a strong emphasis on values such as flexibility, equality, social commitment and innovation. Cultural fit is therefore becoming a key element in career decisions for these generations. Companies that align their culture with the preferences and values of Gen Y and Gen Z are more likely to attract and retain talented professionals. An open and diverse working environment that offers room for personal and professional development is often seen as a deciding factor for these generations when choosing an employer. The integration of flexible working models, technology and a sense of community and purpose are key factors in successfully creating a cultural fit for Gen Y and Gen Z.

Cultural fit as a new success factor in recruitment?  

The focus is on soft skills such as ideas about working methods, personal beliefs and values, personality traits and behaviour towards colleagues and customers. The higher the cultural fit, the greater the chance of success. When collaboration and team dynamics work well, it makes working life easier. 

But while cultural fit is becoming an increasingly important priority in all start-ups, modern SMEs and large international corporations, at the end of the day it all comes down to one thing: working together! What's currently on everyone's lips as cultural fit is, strictly speaking, the resurgence of collaboration. Being better as a team, achieving more and creating new successes together rather than individually - that's the future!

What really matters when looking for new employees?

The cultural fit between candidates and companies is playing an increasingly important role in hiring decisions. After all, behind every interview is the desire for new employees to enrich the corporate culture. If people and companies find a good match during the application process, both sides can realise their full potential. It is not an obstacle if not all the ideas and characteristics of the candidate and the company match. In the best case scenario, the recruiting team knows which characteristics need to be a perfect match and which soft skills can be developed within the company. However, if irreconcilable differences become apparent during the first interview, it is very likely that the candidate and the company will not be a good cultural fit. The chemistry is simply not there.

Our tips for a successful cultural fit check

  • Communicate company values transparently
    Make sure your company values are clearly defined and transparently communicated, for example in the careers section of your website or on your social media channels. Potential candidates should be able to understand what your company stands for before the interview.
  • Asking the right questions
    Develop interview questions that aim to understand the candidate's personality, working style and values. For example, ask about their experience of team projects or how they have dealt with challenges in the past.
  • Involve different team members
    Involve people from relevant departments in the selection process. Especially those who will be working closely with the new team member. This will give you different perspectives on cultural fit and avoid possible subjective assessments. Consider their views on team dynamics and the potential for cultural fit.
  • Trial days and projects
    Offer potential employees the chance to take part in taster days or small projects. This will allow both sides to experience the real working environment and fit in with the company culture.
  • Feedback loops in the onboarding process
    Integrate a continuous feedback mechanism into the onboarding process to ensure that new employees not only fit in, but actively contribute to the culture.

It is therefore always a good idea for applicants to check the company's website in advance - especially the 'About us' page. In addition, social media channels usually provide a good indication of the values that are practised in the company and what is important to its employees.

The new interview success factor

Cultural fit can be a career springboard, especially for newcomers or those with less than stellar CVs. For example, a lack of experience can be compensated for by the right attitude, high motivation and willingness to learn.

If a company focuses on cultural fit during the interview process, rather than on the sheer facts of qualifications, there is a very high probability that new employees will stay with the company longer and, above all, work more effectively. Recent studies have shown that a good cultural fit has a positive impact on productivity, employee satisfaction and retention.

The fact is that cultural fit is based on honesty. And that goes both ways. Various measurement methods such as online assessment and data-based matching algorithms can help, but ultimately it is up to the company to assess and present itself and the candidates to be authentic in their presentation.

If you have ever been turned down for a job despite being well-prepared and giving great answers, it could be down to cultural fit. Would you have been a good fit for the company and would the company have been a good fit for you?

What does cultural fit mean to ARTS?

As an experienced full-service recruitment agency, we understand that the key to successful collaboration lies not only in professional qualifications, but also in a perfect fit with the corporate culture. Our holistic approach to the recruitment process focuses on assessing cultural fit to ensure that the candidates we present not only have the necessary skills, but will also fit seamlessly into your team. Through transparent communication about our clients' values and culture, and targeted interviewing techniques, we lay the foundations for long-term, successful working relationships. Let's work together to ensure that your team is not only efficient, but also harmonious.

About the Author
Sally Kießling
Employer Branding Consultant

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