5 Common Culture-Related Mistakes Made in Hiring

Joe Weinlick
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When startups shift to a sustainable corporate model, focusing too heavily on cultural fit may lead to poor recruitment choices. Growing companies need leaders with the maturity and expertise to improve business operations, and the best managerial hires may be candidates who re-evaluate how things are currently done. Make sure your quest for cultural fit doesn't blackball the most qualified candidates if you want to land top talent.

1. Putting Chemistry Before Quality

Young startups are often run by friends, classmates and long-time colleagues who know each other well, which can make these close-knit teams prone to groupthink. The existing team chemistry comes from shared experiences, and it's not easy to immediately achieve the same spark with outsiders. As a result, recruiters may rely on superficial similarities, such as interests, age or quirks, to judge cultural fit.

Keep in mind, startup companies usually hire new management when they need visionaries who can establish solid infrastructure. If the current team doesn't have the background, mentality or skills to drive the company's growth strategy, it hardly makes sense to hire leaders with the same limitations.

2. Letting Amateurs Weigh In

Good recruiters are specialists for a reason. They understand the financial and legal implications of bad hiring practices and streamline the decision-making process to quickly seal the deal with top candidates. Many startups are small and democratic, with people wearing many hats, so the team may expect candidates to go through endless rounds of interviewing and meet every employee. Trying to please everyone is pointless, especially when startups have no set hiring standards or recruiters qualified to evaluate the company's talent gaps.

3. Resisting Different Work Styles

Startups are a labor of love, and founding teams frequently get in the habit of working around the clock to meet goals. Many startup teams unwisely view this burnout behavior as dedication and dismiss candidates who aren't willing to work grueling hours. Yet, the most qualified managerial candidates are often older professionals with families and personal priorities. People who rise to executive levels know long-term efficiency depends on balance and time management, and there's little to gain from burning the candle at both ends.

4. Wandering Into Legal Territory

Hiring for cultural fit without transparency can perpetuate bias. When startups lack a clear definition of their culture and values, individual employees are free to interpret "cultural fit" however they please. Suddenly, hiring is about choosing people who look, think and behave like you, rather than considering how people with different backgrounds can enrich the team. Age, gender and race disparities are common in startup environments, exposing companies to legal and social backlash as they grow.

5. Trusting Questionable References

Informal references are a common source of good hires, but be critical of the motivation behind bad reviews. Even the best leaders earn some bad blood when they implement unpopular policies, oversee layoffs and promotions or make difficult firing decisions. Try to learn more about the relationship between the referral source and the potential candidate to avoid losing a highly qualified manager over a petty misunderstanding.

Startups have big goals and limited resources, making it essential to choose a team that can carry out a winning growth strategy. Hiring for cultural fit should help companies create a positive work environment, instead of diluting the talent pool.


Photo Courtesy of suphakit73 at Flickr.com

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