Employee turnover can cost a business in numerous ways, from the logistical costs of recruiting and training a new employee to lost productivity while the new employee is brought up to speed.

Vetting potential hires and testing for cultural fit can improve employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention, and one recent survey of employers found that 67 percent view a candidate’s cultural as ‘very important’ in the hiring process. One in five also said that they wouldn’t hire a candidate that wasn’t the right cultural fit for their organization.

But although a cultural fit in the workplace is associated with positive outcomes, it can also be difficult to define. Recently experts have voiced concerns that focusing too much on cultural fit when hiring could lead to unconscious biases and contribute to a lack of diversity within an organization.

So what can employers do to identify and hire candidates who are a good organizational fit but will also bring real value and diversity to the workplace? Here are a few things to keep in mind.  

First, define your company culture

If you want to hire people who will be a good cultural fit, you first need to define your company culture. It might sound obvious, but without a clearly defined workplace culture, you run the risk of basing hiring decisions on superficial assumptions.

There’s a misconception that recruiting for cultural fit means looking for people similar to those already working for an organization, but this isn’t a good strategy for building a strong team. It’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page about what your organization’s values are before hiring decisions are made. For example, it’s easy to say your company is “fast-paced” or “innovative” but what does this really mean and how is this reflected in your workplace?

Once you’re clear on what your core values and goals are, you can make sure your recruitment ads and marketing materials all reflect this so you can attract the right candidates.

Don’t lose sight of what’s important

Another thing to keep in mind when interviewing potential candidates is that the person you get along with best isn’t necessarily the best person for the job. It’s easy to lose sight of this when you’re interviewing someone you feel like you could be friends with, but recruiting for culture fit doesn’t mean choosing the person you’d most like to spend your free time with.

Focus on your company’s core values and whether or not a particular candidate would enhance team you already have. Just because someone doesn’t have the same personality or approach as other people on your team, it doesn’t automatically mean they wouldn’t be a good cultural fit.

In fact, hiring someone with a fresh approach or different style of communication can be a positive thing if that person is able to challenge outdated ways of thinking with new ideas and strengthen your team as a whole.


Build a team of internal recruiters

Many companies these days outsource their recruitment processes, but this makes it difficult to determine whether a person would be a good match for your company culture. Having multiple people who already understand your company’s values and goals interview potential candidates can also help prevent unconscious biases in hiring decisions.


Look for adaptability

If you want to hire someone who will complement your existing team, an important trait to look for is adaptability. An employee who demonstrates workplace flexibility will find it easier to accept new working styles, and adjust his or her approach to changing circumstances.

Asking good questions can help you determine whether someone has this quality, but you can also use random exercises to see how well an applicant can adapt to a situation he or she hasn’t had a chance to prepare for. For example, you could ask interviewees to think of an alternative use for an ordinary office item such as a pen or notebook.

In this case, the originality of the ideas applicants come up with isn’t as important as how well they can deal with the unexpected. Does the applicant seem flustered or unsettled when asked to tackle an out-of-the-ordinary exercise or does he or she take it in stride?


Ask the right questions

Asking specific and deliberate questions is an excellent way to determine whether a person’s values and goals align with your company’s values and goals.

Open-ended questions like “What values are you drawn to?” or “In what sort of work environment do you feel most productive and happy?” or “Why do you want to work here?” can help you get a good sense of what’s important to a candidate.

There are no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ answers to these types of questions, but the answers you get will give you an insight into whether a person would thrive in your workplace. For example, if your company values teamwork, a candidate who prefers to be given direct orders and tackle projects alone may not be the best cultural fit, even if he or she is highly qualified.