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Hiring For Culture Fit

HRH 2 | Hiring For Culture

With everything that has been said about culture, businesses by now should have laid down what it means and looks like for them. However, having a culture is not all that there is for it to do wonders for your business. You also need the right people that fit the culture you want. In this episode, Andrea Hoffer talks about hiring for culture fit. Starting with the basics, she shares the advantages of having a culture in place and the disadvantages of not having one. Andrea then tells us a great story that shows the importance of having core values and why businesses should make employees feel that they are part of something they believe in.

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Hiring For Culture Fit

What Is Culture And Why Is It Important?

We’re going to talk about hiring for culture fit. First of all, what is culture? We’re talking about specifically culture at a business or an organization. I’ve heard culture defined in many different ways. The way I like to look at culture is what works here? What are the guidelines that we follow that everybody in the organization knows this is how we work here? It’s how you show up your shared beliefs and values in business or in an organization. To me, it’s easiest to look at culture by the core values. They can be called other things as well but for our purposes, we’re going to call them core values. Typically, you have between about 5 and 8 core values for your business.

These are the shared values that everybody on your team knows about and follows. It’s what helps them make decisions. It’s their guide or map in the daily operation of your business. It’s how they interact with each other. It’s how they interact with your customers. It’s how they interact with you as the employer or the owner of the business. It’s what guides everything that you do. Why is this even important? Why do we even want to know what our culture and what our core values are in our business? One reason is it contributes to turnover. SHRM has found that turnover due to poor cultural fit can cost an employer anywhere from 50% to 60% of a person’s annual salary. When we’re looking for the right fit for a position, culture is a big part of that.

It’s not just, can they do the job and do they want to do the job? Would they fit in here? Would they make the same decisions that we would make? Another reason why this is important is that if you have to stay on top of your team every day and they have to come to you to figure out how to make some basic decisions or even some important decisions, then you’re going to be working in your business. You’re not going to have time to work on your business and growing it. It doesn’t make it a fun place to work for you or for your team if they constantly have to question everything that they do. Having a guidepost or a map on how to make good decisions in your businesses is helpful. How do we do this?

The New Customer

I’m a big fan of stories. If you’ve ever heard me speak before, you know that when I talk about figuring out your core values or even before you start hiring anybody, start writing down your stories. These are your good and what you would call your bad stories. Get a piece of paper and put a line through the middle of it. On the left side, start brainstorming and jotting down all the different stories over the years of your team members who hit it out of the park, who lived the values that you have, even if you can’t define them at this point in time. They represent what you want your business to represent. On the right, it’s maybe the team members who may not still work for you, who have done things or made decisions that you wouldn’t have made, who maybe interacted with a customer in a certain way or even with each other.

[bctt tweet=”Having a guide on how to make good decisions in your businesses is very helpful.  ” via=”no”]

It’s not to say they didn’t do their job well, maybe they didn’t show up on a day-to-day basis the way you truly value for yourself and for your business. Before we get into the next step, I’m going to share a story with you. I wrote this story several years ago. It’s a prologue to a book that I wrote about how to offer great customer service. It’s called The New Customer. You can download it on my website at if you would like a copy. I’m going to read you the story. It’s a true story and it’s a story about a woman named Priscilla. This story happened a long time ago way before I was working in training in customer service or training and hiring. It had a big impact on me. I like sharing it because it has all different kinds of parts to it that may start to spark in you some stories you have from your business. In that way, you can start to think of what stories you want to write down to start to discover your core values.

This was not at my business. This is a story of me as the customer. It had such an impact on me that years later, I shared it in a book because I felt that it represented what I’d like to see in a good customer service representative. Here’s the story. I’m going to read it to you. I met Priscilla in 1998. A friend of mine had recommended a certain type of makeup for me. It was brand new and you could only buy it at a department store. One day I was in the mall and decided to visit the makeup counter at Macy’s. This is where I met Priscilla. She greeted me right away with her smile. This was already a little surprising to me because in my past experience, whenever I’ve walked into department stores, I’ve typically had to seek out a person at any of the counters. I shared with her that a friend recommended the brand of makeup that she was at the counter for, but then I was concerned about trying anything new because my skin was sensitive and because I was on a limited budget.

I didn’t want to spend a lot of money especially if I wasn’t sure the makeup was going to work for my skin. Priscilla immediately offered me a seat. She introduced herself. She took a look at my skin and she started to explain to me how the products worked and why she truly believed in them. We talked for a few minutes while she experimented with some of the products in my skin. In the end, I purchased a light foundation and she gave me several samples of toner moisturizer to try out. She also told me that if I weren’t happy with my purchase, she’d be happy to refund it for any reason. This experience already is a great experience, but some more amazing things happened as time went by. I’m going to jump ahead here. If you want to read the whole story, download my book. As time went on, I was happy with the foundation and about a month later I went back to make an additional purchase.

I walked in and Priscilla was helping another customer when I arrived. She immediately noticed and acknowledged me. She walked up and said, “Hello, Andrea.” She remembered my name. She had only met me once about a month prior and she had no idea I was coming in. I thought that was amazing. When she was done with her customer, she came over to greet me and in her hand was an index card with all of my information, my name, my contact info, the products I had purchased in the past, and even the samples she had given me. I noticed she had this large box of these index cards and this is where she recorded how I as a customer and her other customers liked each product and what we purchased and our thoughts on it.

HRH 2 | Hiring For Culture

Hiring For Culture: People don’t stay at businesses and organizations if they don’t feel like they fit in with the culture, and if they don’t feel that they are making a difference.

Two weeks later, I received a phone call from Priscilla. She wanted to make sure I was still happy with my purchase and to see if I needed anything else. She also wanted to share with me that she was putting together a mailing list and she wanted to confirm my address. I thanked her. I told her I was still happy with my purchases and that I didn’t need anything at this time. A few days later, I received her newsletter in the mail. It contained some information about the different product line and also the hours she was going to be working the next month so that I could be sure to visit when she was there.

The address was handwritten and I could picture her addressing each newsletter each month from the index cards that were in her box. A month later, I walked into the mall and I needed to pick up more foundation. Priscilla wasn’t there. I was like, “I hadn’t checked her schedule before I came.” I went to the counter and there’s a different salesperson there. I had to flag her down. It’s a little difficult to get her attention and I soon learned her skills didn’t go beyond ringing me up. I told her I needed foundation but couldn’t remember the shade and I asked her to check the index card box. She was aware of the box. She said Priscilla had told her about it, but she couldn’t remember where Priscilla put it.

I got frustrated. I picked out a shade that I thought might work and purchased that. I was also reprimanding myself for not looking at Priscilla’s schedule and coming in when Priscilla was going to be there. The shade I picked out didn’t work for my skin. I came back when Priscilla was there and she refunded my money right away. She gently reminded me again that she does send out her hours ahead of time. If I can’t make it during her hours, she showed me where she keeps the index card box so that if the person behind the counter doesn’t remember I could remind them. Over the next several years, I continued to purchase my makeup from Priscilla. She became a constant in my life. I received regular phone calls and newsletters.

I even brought a guy I was dating by to meet her because I guess I mentioned her all the time so he wanted to meet her. After that, she always asked about him. One day, she told me she was taking a few months off. She said it was for medical reasons but that she would be fine. She sent out a letter to all of her customers stating this time she would be out and that she informed her replacement about the index card box. I was a little worried because she looked a little pale. She did return after three months and seemed in top form. A few months after that, Priscilla called me to tell me she was changing stores. She was no longer going to be at Macy’s because they refused to carry the brand that she was passionate about.

[bctt tweet=”Your job posting should be more about who you are and who will enjoy working with you.” via=”no”]

Instead, she moved to Nordstrom. I thought that was a good move for her because I felt her level of customer service was a much better fit in Nordstrom. A little less than a year later, I received a call from a woman at Nordstrom. She left a message saying it was regarding Priscilla. I thought that was a little strange but I returned the call. Priscilla had passed away. All those years she had been sick, but she never let it show to her customers. She never even seemed like she had a bad day. The woman said that when they were cleaning Priscilla’s things out, they found the index card box. In the box, they found cards on customers who had been with Priscilla for years, many like me for over five years. Nordstrom felt they owed it to their customers and to Priscilla to notify them of Priscilla’s passing.

I was sad to hear this. Priscilla had become important in my life. It’s funny how that can happen. I’m going to end the story here, but I think you can start to see while that is more of a lengthy story, you can pick out several things that showed the core values that Priscilla lived by. Her customers were number one to her. We didn’t have the technology back then. We’re just starting to have what we have now. Maybe Priscilla wasn’t even up on the latest technology but she used the tool she had available to her to make sure that she took good care of her customers. If you start to write stories like that down from what you’ve seen at your business throughout the years, you’ll start to see what resonates with you.

I would do this exercise with your team as well. Let them pat each other on the back. Let them help you come up with those stories. After you get these stories down and this is a constant process. I always say let’s continue to collect these stories, good and bad because sometimes the bad can show us what we don’t want and that helps us further define what we do.

Start to look at the themes in these stories. You’ll start to see things that are similar from story-to-story that stands out for you. You can break it down into the different themes, then for each theme write a couple of sentences to summarize it. You still want it to be as specific as possible. You still want to be able to show how it shows up. You want to be able to recognize this value in somebody else. In order to do that, you need to be specific about it. Don’t worry about titles or labels. That’s not important at this point. You can put those on later and they don’t have to be perfect. This whole thing does not have to be perfect. The important part is starting to write down who you are and how you want your business to function day-to-day.

HRH 2 | Hiring For Culture

Hiring For Culture: You can’t start hiring the right people for your business if you don’t know who those people are. Figuring out your core values and your culture is the first step.

Hiring For Culture Fit

Continue to reflect on it and see, “Is this true?” If Macy’s was to say, “Priscilla represents our culture here.” I’m not sure at the time that was true. That wasn’t my experience as a customer. She was the outlier. If I was to go out hiring for Macy’s and represented what Priscilla as how we work here, how we live here, and I hired more Priscillas, more people that shared the same values as her, I don’t know if those people would stay. Especially now, people don’t stay at businesses and organizations as long if they don’t feel like they’re making a difference, but also fitting in with the culture and being part of something that they believe in. Priscilla stuck out as somebody different and eventually she did leave and go to an organization that was a better fit for her.

It was driven more by the product that she believes passionately in that wasn’t being sold at Macy’s anymore. Even that is part of her core values, believing in the product that she sells and not selling to sell. She moved to an organization or a business that believed that and that sold the product that she believed in. It’s about getting started and starting to discover what your guideposts and core values are. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You do want to revisit them from time to time as yourself and as a team to make sure that they’re true and that you’re living them. Sometimes we forget along the way what’s important to us in the beginning. You want to make sure that you’re keeping them alive.

We’re going to get into the hiring part of this conversation. I know most of this episode seemed more about figuring out our core values. I truly believe you can’t start hiring the right people for your business if you don’t know who those people are. Figuring out your core values, your culture is the first step and one of the largest steps because then you want to take that and you want to put it out in the world. You want to share who you are. You can do that through job postings. The job postings will have a section about responsibilities and what this job does, but that’s the smallest section. The rest of it, you want to talk about your mission. You want to talk about your core values. You want to talk about what it takes to be successful here. That doesn’t read like a traditional job description. The job posting is more about who you are and who will enjoy working here.

You want to put that out through social media, through employee testimonials, through the day in the life pictures, videos, and stories. If you support certain charities or go to events as a team, share that. Even if you’re not currently recruiting and hiring, put it out there. People will start to follow you and will start to learn what your culture is like. When you do have an opening, you already have people interested in joining your team. The next step is taking that information and being aware of it when you create your interview questions. We’re not going to dig too much into that. Our next episode will be more about how to create your interview questions based on your core values and your culture.

[bctt tweet=”Before you can even hire for culture, you need to go through the steps of discovering what your culture is in the first place.” via=”no”]

You want to ask for specific examples from candidates of how they lived something. If we were talking about customer service, it could be, “Could you share with me a specific example of the time you had a difficult customer?” The story you’ll receive from somebody like Priscilla would be different from the story you’ll receive from maybe another candidate. You’ll start to see by listening to the candidate stories, does it line up with your core values? If you hear the same answer over and over again from different candidates, it probably isn’t a good interview question because everybody has different experiences and everybody showed up differently in those situations. Their examples they’re sharing with you should be completely different from each other.

We’ll talk about how to create good solid interview questions and what to listen for in our next episode. To sum up, hiring for culture is important. Before you can even do that, you need to go through the steps of discovering what your culture is. I don’t want it to seem like a huge task to you. You may even start off by having a day or half-a-day with your team and start brainstorming these stories and start to jot something down. Start to continue to reflect and refine it until you get it to where you want to be. As soon as you start to write it down and start to look at who you are, it will give you your map, it will give you a guide to go by and a communication piece to have with your team to say, “Is this truly us? How can we keep this alive?”

Lastly, you truly want to recognize when somebody is living one of your core values. There are lots of different ways to do that. Everything from a shout-out to an award or maybe even some team reward, through everything you do, through hiring, through your day-to-day functioning, and through how you recognize your team, even your reviews, you want to weave your core values in. That way everybody will truly know what those values are and what to live by. It will never be a question. When things are clear, it’s much easier to get everybody on the same page. Thank you for joining me. I hope that you enjoyed the story about Priscilla and some of the other information that I shared.

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