When hiring for a new position, experienced recruiters agree that skill is not the most important deciding factor when it comes to who to hire. Fit is. An important thing to remember is that required skill sets can be taught, whereas fit cannot be. As Shakespeare has proven over and over again in plays, such as Hamlet and Macbeth, it only takes one person to cause a tragedy. Likewise, it only takes one person to bring down a company. No one wants to accidentally find themselves working beside a Macbeth. In order to avoid such a mistake, human resource managers and business owners should have a thorough understanding of their company’s culture before ever posting for a position. It is impossible to hire for cultural fit without understanding the type of culture already in place. Therefore, understanding your company’s culture is the first step in hiring for fit. The next is to decide whether or not you are happy with the culture in place, and the third is to select your new employee.

#1 “To Thine Own Self Be True”

Take a good look at your office. Evaluate the space and the employees. Pay attention to the surface details as well as the details existing below the surface. Surface details include how an office physically appears as well as how employees are dressed. Characteristics existing below the surface include how things like communication and power are structured within a space.

Offices can be structured in many different ways, but usually there is either an open or closed floor plan in place. A closed floor plan with doors and visibly separated work spaces lends itself well to more independent employees, whereas open floor plans with few walls and doors in place lend better to collaborative personalities. From there, an employer can judge what type of communication works best within a space.

The communication that takes place within an office has a variety of portals to choose from. It may be shared most via email or through in-person communication. Communication styles are often based on power structures. A more decentralized office is likely to have employees who communicate more directly with each other, whereas an office with a hierarchical power structure is more likely to communicate indirectly, using team leaders and authority figures to communicate messages and concerns effectively to co-workers on their behalf.

After spending so much time evaluating the internal structures existing between their employees, one of the easiest things to judge is whether or not an office is business professional, business casual or completely casual. Judging the general appearance of one’s employees is a lot easier than judging the communication styles taking place between them. However, it is also a fact that more casual offices tend to be more laid back in their structures and therefore, more laid back in their organization.

However, a more professional office may have stricter expectations for their employees, including set times they are expected to be in the office and tightly structured meetings. Light-hearted, loosely structured meetings are more likely to appear in business casual and casual office settings, which are also more likely to allow more relaxed scheduling for their employees.

#2 “To Be or Not to Be?”

Taking a good look at your office will not only reveal what culture is already in place, but will also reveal what personalities have been most successful. After evaluating these characteristics, employers will have a better idea of what type of employee they would like to hire. They may wish to be careful to hire someone who will keep the current culture of the company in place, or they may decide to hire someone who will shift the culture into one direction or another.

For instance, a quiet, passive office may consider hiring a more extroverted individual who will help bring more employees out of their shell and improve communication. Another option would be to bring in a more easygoing employee to break up the monotony in a sterile work environment, or they may wish to bring in a more collaborative personality in order to teamwork in an independent workspace. Either way, business owners will know what they already have in place and what personalities would blend well.

One good way to do this is to put together a list of adjectives describing the most successful personalities currently existing at your workplace. It’s a pretty safe bet that hiring someone who also exhibits these adjectives will fit in just fine without disrupting the company culture that is already in place.

#3 “To Be One Man Picked Out of Ten Thousand”

The rest of the process takes place after the resumes have been submitted, and revolves around meaningful interactions and asking good questions. Of course, a single interview will not help reveal how an employee will actually act and perform on a daily basis. It is important to seek out potential candidates multiple times and in a variety of settings both in and out of the office.

Before hiring, but after the first personal interview, invite potential candidates back to sit in on an office meeting or to a company event. This will give you a chance to watch how they interact with other employees who may become their co-workers. It will also provide an opportunity to gauge how they respond to questions and authority figures in public situations.

While potential candidates are out and about at company functions, observation is only half the process. The second half is based around an employer’s creativity and what kinds of questions they can think to ask. There’s no better way to judge someone’s mind than to quiz it with random questions. Learn about a candidate’s dislikes by quizzing them on things that they like. Find out about their determination and perseverance through questions associated with their extracurricular activities. For instance, employees who double as marathon runners in their free time will probably have a better set of determination skills than someone who sits at home on the weekends.

After you’ve spent time watching and quizzing, it’s time for the airport test. You know how good company can make all the difference? For instance, a two-hour delay doesn’t seem that bad at the airport if you have someone enjoyable to share it with. In fact, the time may fly by and appear to just be a few minutes. Now imagine the same scenario using a potential candidate. Your reaction to this thought should determine whether or not to hire the employee in question. Tip: if the thought makes you cringe, it’s probably a bad idea.

Contributed by Pam Kidd