Culture Club: When a Company is the Right Fit

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To borrow from Benjamin Franklin, nothing is certain except death and taxes…. and workplace horror stories. When it comes to bosses behaving badly, crappy cubicles or unpleasant peers, nearly everyone with a resume has a story about a toxic workplace. Thankfully, the tides are turning and companies are embracing a more curated, deliberate focus on providing a positive, encouraging and supportive company culture.

What is Culture Fit?

“Cultural fit is best understood when you consider it within the context of your organization's culture and how your organization's culture was formed,” says Susan Heathfield, a HR specialist and writer at, an information hub for personal and professional growth in the workplace. “A potential employee may express and exhibit the characteristics, language and values that exist within the current organizational culture—or not.”

What Is a Good Company Culture?

A good company culture allows for individual contributions, both personal and professional, that encourage, support and respectfully challenge each employee to do their best work. To create that, some companies focus their hiring choices based on the personality, not the position. For example, Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer, uses the Zappos Core Values Interview Assessment, which outlines its 10 core values as a company. This resource helps the company prioritize the right culture fit over technical job skills. Considering Zappos is consistently touted as a top place to work, the people-first initiative seems to be working.

“The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality,” according to one of the researchers of a recent study on employee happiness and productivity. Another researcher noted, “Companies like Google have invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For Google, it rose by 37%. Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off.”

How Do Companies Create Good Culture?

Hiring specifically based on how a potential employee will “fit in” also has its pitfalls and can serve to perpetuate an undesirable culture—and ultimately hurt a business—by focusing on candidates that are similar to current team members. But to create an environment that puts employee comfort and happiness at the forefront, companies must include employees of varied backgrounds, perspectives and experiences. Diversity in the workplace encourages respect, team-building, collaboration and acceptance. A recent study from Forbes showed that more inclusive teams make better business decisions 87% of the time.

Cultivating a diverse, people-forward company is easier said than done. HR must determine how to best conduct the hiring process so as to balance the good culture-fit candidates with the technically skilled candidates, without unfairly judging or adding outside bias. Zappos’ Core Value Assessment is one way companies can make sure potential hires are on the same page. Another tactic is a behavior interview, where the applicant is asked to give instances when they acted in a way that demonstrated specific behaviors. Think of it as a “What did you do in this situation?” instead of a “What would you do in this situation?” The actual behaviors might be different than the assumed behaviors, which can be telling for a specific job title. According to Heathfield, “In the best interviews, the candidate is unaware of the behavior the interviewer is verifying.”

Next Steps for Job Seekers

Since companies are focusing on personality as well as performance, it makes sense for job seekers to prepare more than their resumes. For job seekers, the questions remain:

  • How do you know if the company you interview with is a good fit for your talents and temperament?
  • How do you make sure a company knows that you are a good match for their company?
  • What are some ways employees can get employers to support professional goals and encourage personal growth?
  • And if the company culture is lacking, how do you make culture changes in your current position?

Join us for the next installments of our culture fit series when we tackle how to find quality companies that invest in their culture, and what to do when the office environment needs a makeover.