5 Tips on How to Recruit for Behaviours and Fit

Keen to make sure your new recruit fits into the team and organisation? Burned in the past by making the wrong selection?

Read on for some hints about how to get the right fit, first time and every time.

A Word about Culture

The hallmark for top organisations around the world is the set of key behaviours that drive organisation culture. These may be called ‘organisational values’ or ‘behavioural competencies’ or both. It is no small matter to create and define these, but what is pivotal is to ensure that values and the behaviours that support them are lived across all parts of the organisation and continue to impact on the organisation’s performance.

Recruitment is a vital first stage at which to embed culture and values. New employees who are aligned to the organisation’s values are more likely to contribute positively to that culture. This holds true also for leadership positions and internal promotions. Recruitment at all levels needs to recognise the importance of demonstrating key values and behaviours for moving forward in the organisation.

A Word about Diversity

A focus on fit is not to say that employers should be hiring and promoting their people using a cookie cutter approach. Organisations benefit from diversity in background and experience. Nonetheless, employers should be looking for prospective employees and leaders who will fit with the key driving cultural forces within their organisation. These cultural forces can and should be reflected in a richly diverse workforce.

So how do you effectively recruit for behaviours and fit?

1. Start with a clear understanding of your organisation’s culture

An organisation’s culture is most often described in terms of values that are translated into observable behaviours and actions. Care needs to be taken that there is not a disconnect between the ‘aspirational’ view that senior managers have of culture, and the reality that most employees experience. A thorough definition process will reflect both current core values and future behaviours needed to grow the business.

Action Plan: Review your current culture definitions, espoused values and desired behaviour statements. It may be time to review, or start creating, the definition of your organisation’s desired culture that will propel your organisation forward.

2. Communicate your culture

The culture of an organisation should figure prominently across all touch points with prospective employees. This includes job advertisements, website and online application processes, social media avenues, automated communication, and personal communication with candidates. Give candidates every opportunity to assess their own fit with the organisational culture and self-select.

Action Plan: Look at your recruitment communication through the eyes of a prospective employee. Does it tell the right story about what it’s like to work for your organisation? Is it consistent across different channels and with your internal communication/practices?

3. Ensure your recruitment teams and hiring managers understand your organisation’s culture.

All employees who recruit as part of their roles should be able to define and articulate the organisation’s culture – values, behaviours and goals, and incorporate this understanding into the hiring process. They should have the tools and knowledge to identify characteristics that integrate well with the organisation’s cultural hallmarks.

Action Plan: Educate and upskill managers and individuals on what your organisational culture means in the context of the recruitment process and how to assess for cultural fit. Create a ‘frame of reference’ for hiring teams to benchmark their assessments through the development of behavioural indicators (what good looks like) and the sharing of examples.

4. Measure behavioural fit in a robust manner

Behavioural fit can be effectively measured with a variety of methods. If used properly, application responses, screening questions, behavior-based interviewing and psychometric measures such as personality or motivational fit questions can all usefully predict an individual’s positive contribution to an organisation’s culture.

Action Plan: Upskill staff in behavioural interviewing techniques including evaluation of behavioural responses and awareness-building around potential unconscious bias (eg ‘similar to me’ effect). Other effective techniques include using more than one source of evidence, always having more than one interviewer, and using tools with high success rate (eg personality questionnaires, simulations, structured behavioural interviews). Also, be very clear about what the organisation’s leadership expects in the situation where a candidate is irresistible technically but has a mediocre to poor fit (we have all been there!).

5. Ongoing reinforcement

Hiring for behaviour fit is very important, but on-going reinforcement is crucial. For organisations with a strong positive culture, this will start at initial recruitment and continue throughout the employee experience with an organisation. Onboarding, leadership, policies, practices and engagement initiatives are all opportunities to promote and reinforce values.

This might seem overwhelming, but organisations that are serious about being values/behavior-driven just need to achieve the first building block – leadership support. Not only do leaders need to be on board with the values, they need to be willing to put time and effort into defining the day-to-day behaviours that support those values, and be role models for living them.

Action Plan: Keeping the momentum going is not easy. Support leaders in how to live the values on a day to day basis. Build in opportunities for leaders and employees alike to share ideas about how to keep values alive in your organisation. Keep values in the forefront of decision making activities.

Article written by Helen Johnston – Learning and Organisational Development Specialist