Empowered Team

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Hiring for cultural fit

Matt Buckland

Head of Talent @ Lyst

It's crucial that you determine what your values are before you start throwing around notions of 'culture fit'.

Key takeaways

  • Some founders think 'hiring for culture fit' means hiring people like themselves;
  • In fact, it means hiring people who share your values – not who you want to be friends with;
  • Create values by asking your team what's important to them;
  • Be careful not to be too ambitious – think about how the company is right now.

Culture isn't about beer, ping-pong tables or t-shirts.

The idea of 'culture fit' is a misunderstood phenomenon in young companies. Culture fit is unique to each startup. It's based on how the candidate’s personal values and behaviours align with the company’s values. It's not as simple as saying to yourself: “Do I want to hang out with this person?” That’s too subjective, and often leads to a team of very similar people. Friendship is a byproduct of making a great hire – it's not a pre-requisite. To identify your team's values, talk to the team about what they believe to be their common traits. Bring those together to form a short list of attributes that define how your team operates and works together. What matters to your team? If your company's values are too aspirational they will soon be seen as inauthentic and redundant. Ground your values in how the team is today. Don't just focus on what you aspire to be.

Do they have teeth?

A great test for the values you've created is to ask yourself if they would prevent you from doing something. If you would opt out of a decision that may lead to revenue because it's not aligned with your values, that's a good sign that the values you've chosen 'have teeth' and that they're core to your beliefs. Once you have this list of values, you can create interview questions to target whether or not those values align with your candidate. As an example, at Facebook I would ask this question:

"What is the most impactful thing you created for your team, and why do you consider that to be the most impactful?"

One of our values was 'Focus on impact', so this question was designed to measure a candidate's alignment with that.

Useful links

Matt Buckland

Head of Talent @ Lyst

Over fourteen years experience in the design and implementation of Human Resources and Recruitment strategies, from sourcing initiatives, recruitment process re-engineering, HRIS selection and implementation, Reward and Recognition, Performance Management and OKR implementation, usage of a metrics led approach and building teams of recruiters that drive up quality and drive down costs. I have successfully recruited for many areas - software development, trading, financial services and sales.

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