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Cultural Fit - THE success factor in job interviews

10/08/2021 2021/09

Imagine you are the boss of a team of 'weirdos' and outsiders. You have to fill a position in this team and want to make sure that the new person deals with the idiosyncrasies of the future colleagues in an understanding way; there should be no bullying under any circumstances. Who do you take after the interview with comparable professional qualifications: the person with an impeccable CV, who has obviously followed all the tips from application guides, well coiffed and smart? Or the one who has a few breaks in his resume himself and shows a 'heart of gold' in the interview despite his tattoos and clumsy expressions?

Values are more important than linear CVs

In the above example - which, by the way, we observed ourselves at a traditional German aviation company - the focus is on the so-called cultural fit when filling a position, sometimes also referred to as person-organization fit. In German: how well does someone fit into the future team or company?

More than half of the employees in a company in Germany want a congenial corporate culture, respectful interaction with each other and a sense of belonging. The so-called hard skills and professional qualifications seem to be losing importance in a world of ever-faster change.

Whereas in the past only the qualifications acquired were relevant in the job interview, today more and more attention is paid to whether the applicant fits in with the corporate culture - and can enrich it with his or her characteristics.
But what exactly does the term "cultural fit" mean? How can applicants themselves check whether their personal cultural fit matches the company? And how do companies measure the cultural fit?

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Why personality is worth more than expertise

Many companies believe that professional knowledge can be acquired, but that personal attitudes and value profiles are difficult to change. And so the personal package each candidate brings with them is of greater importance.

If personality traits and thought patterns suit the company, all parties involved have gained more than if the applicant can only present impeccable certificates. Because the hard skills that every applicant can bring along on day X can be outdated in today's fast-moving time in the next few months. And so it is more effective to know that the new employee can quickly find himself in new situations and represent the company authentically to the outside world.

The Generation Y and the enormous Value of Cultural Fit

The so-called Millennials value a sense of community, such as eating lunch together, and crave the best possible cohesion more than the next pay raise. Generation Y and Z are clearly driving the importance of cultural fit. The numerous start-ups are leading the way and the rest of the corporate world is following suit because authenticity is becoming valuable again.

This is not necessarily about the kicker in the hallway, the Feelgood Manager with the fruit basket under his arm or the unlimited supply of bionade. It's about your very own corporate culture and questions like: What is really important for our company? What do we want to present to the outside world? How do we address our customers? What values does our company stand for? The employees want and should stand behind the respective answers. But first every company has to ask itself these questions. And at the end of the day, a different answer comes out for each company and the selection of new employees depends on this. The term Cultural Fit comes from personnel psychology and describes the correspondence between applicants and companies with regard to personal values, ways of acting and thought patterns.

Cultural Fit as a New Success Factor in Recruiting?  

The focus is on so-called soft skills such as ideas regarding working methods, own convictions and values, personality traits as well as behaviour towards colleagues and customers. The higher the value of the cultural fit, the greater the chance that the company will be successful. If cooperation and dynamics function in a team, this makes everyday work easier.

But even if the cultural fit is gaining more and more priority in all startups, modern SME's and also in internationally operating large corporations, in the end it is all about one thing: cooperation! What is currently on everyone's lips as a cultural fit is, strictly speaking, the resurgence of cooperation. Being better in the community, doing more and collectively shaping new successes as lone fighters - this is what the future looks like.

What really counts when looking for new employees?

When it comes to personnel decisions, the cultural fit plays an increasingly important role as a corporate cultural passport size between applicants and companies. Because behind every job interview is the wish that the new employee should enrich the corporate culture. If employees and companies come together in a job interview, both sides can fully exploit their potential. However, in addition to the similarities, it is also a question of a possible addition to the corporate culture by the applicant - and personnel managers should therefore consider both the Supplementary Fit and the Complementary Fit.

It is therefore no disgrace if not all the ideas and characteristics between the candidate and the company are the same. In the best case scenario, the recruiter knows exactly which characteristics have to fit exactly and which soft skills can still be developed in the company. If, however, irreconcilable differences become clear in the first interview, it is very likely that applicants and companies will not find each other and that the cultural fit will not fit.

An applicant should therefore always check in advance whether his or her own cultural fit fits the company. More and more companies are offering the possibility of anonymous and non-binding cultural fit matching. But don't panic - if you don't match in such a tool, you can still score points later in a direct conversation with the personnel. Because authenticity also plays an important role and the body language in the interview reveals a lot about who the applicant really is. In our opening example, the question was asked what is important to the respective person at work - the person with the answer "to perform as well as possible and to grow steadily" was not taken, but rather "yep, it would be good if things went well in the team".

For an ideal preparation for an interview, it is not least important to get to grips with the company. These matching tools are often only an incentive to look more closely at the potential new employer.

It is therefore always advisable for applicants to obtain detailed information in advance on the company's website - and above all to study the about us page in more detail. In addition, the social media channels usually provide good information about which values are lived in the company and what is important to the employees there.

The new success factor in job interviews

The cultural fit factor can be a career springboard, especially for career starters. For example, a lack of experience can be compensated for by the right attitude, a high level of motivation and a high degree of willingness to learn.

If a company focuses on the cultural fit in the interview instead of the pure facts of the qualifications, the probability is very high that the new employee will work longer and above all more effectively. Recent studies show that a good cultural fit has a positive effect on productivity as well as on employee satisfaction and retention time.

Both the companies and the applicants can check in advance whether the cultural fit fits. Many recruiters rely on aptitude-diagnostic test procedures (online assessment) and data-based matching algorithms. By means of such programs, past activities of the applicants can be analyzed and linked with further background information. Anonymous online assessment procedures are a good option for both sides. In this way, the applicant can determine the cultural and personal match with a company beforehand and forward an application to the company only if the result is good. On the other hand, recruiters and managers save a lot of time and get a first impression before the interview.

The fact is, the Cultural Fit is based on honesty. And this applies to both sides. The different measuring methods can have a supporting effect, but in the end it depends on how the company assesses and presents itself and how authentic the applicant remains in his presentation of himself.

Especially if you have received a rejection of an application yourself, although you were well prepared and gave great answers, it may be that it was due to the fit in terms of corporate culture. Would you really have fit in with the company and the company with you?

What does Cultural Fit mean at ARTS?

At ARTS, the cultural fit also plays a major role in personnel decisions. Our employees are the focus of the company. Therefore, ARTS attaches great importance to flat hierarchies and a trial-and-error culture. Apply and experience our corporate culture at first hand like Anja.

“We cultivate a collegial togetherness - community, reaching a common goal and there are no lone fighters. Flat hierarchies, informal corporate culture and " just do it" philosophy are further points that I greatly appreciate.”

Anja Uebermuth, Digital Transformation Manager at ARTS

About the Author
Valeska Szalla
Development Consultant
Since 2017 I have been writing my success story at ARTS, where I can always add a new chapter through the various projects I have been involved in.

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