How to Hire for Office Culture

Joseph Stubblebine
Posted by in Human Resources

Office culture is a frequently overlooked aspect of the hiring process. When you hire a candidate who doesn't complement the existing culture, it can cause tension and throw the entire team into a tailspin. By taking personality into consideration, you will increase your chances of finding employees who perform well and enhance the office culture.

When you hire with office culture in mind, it is important to gauge the current situation. Are you happy with the established culture? What changes do you want to make? Make an effort to identify weak areas and look for complementary qualities during the interview process. If your office tends to have an overly serious and uptight atmosphere, for example, you might look for candidates who have a relaxed personality and a strong sense of humor.

If you are having trouble gauging the holes in the office culture, go directly to the employees. Ask them what kind of colleague they would like to see added to the team. Often their ground-level perspectives will give you new insight. An older workforce might want a younger, enthusiastic candidate who will bring new energy to the office, and more creative employees might prefer someone who is grounded and calm to help rein them in.

Once you have identified the qualities you want in a prospective employee, a new challenge arises: finding ways to identify people with the right personality during the hiring process. According to Business Week, one option is to ask more personal questions during the first interview. Again, consider your employees. What are they passionate about? What are their shared interests? If you have a staff full of self-proclaimed geeks, it may be a misstep to hire someone who doesn't know the difference between "Star Wars" and "Star Trek." Potential questions might cover the candidate's favorite books, travel locations, movies or websites. Alternatively, ask questions that gauge her personality and the ability to participate in office discourse. If your staff is highly literate and articulate, you might ask about the candidate's opinion on the serial comma — an issue that inspires passion and debate among writers and readers. If she responds with a strong, definite opinion, chances are that she'll fit in well with the office culture.

In some cases, the only way to determine an applicant's fit with the office culture is to toss her in the deep end. When cultural fit is a true concern, find ways for each candidate to interact with current employees. Ask her to have lunch with the team, have her spend 15 minutes with the person who is currently in the open position or invite experienced employees to sit in on interviews. Afterward, ask for feedback; a strong positive or negative reaction can make the hiring process easier.

Hiring for office culture is not a simple proposition, but it can pay off dramatically in the long run. By taking the extra time to find candidates who make the team better and happier, you can maintain stability without sabotaging productivity.

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