Candidates want culture fit. One-third of job seekers would decline an offer if they didn't feel there was a good culture fit, and 90% of employers believe culture fit is more important than skills and experience. This shift in thinking has a lot of businesses working hard to promote their corporate culture and ensure applicants get the message.
But how do you help candidates, who only see a snippets of organizations during the job hunt process, understand the kinds of companies they may be getting into?
Long before a candidate walks through the door, an employer's messaging has to be clear. Remember that job seekers are evaluating the company's online profile before they apply.
"Many candidates will do their research," Brett Good, senior district president for Robert Half, told HR Dive in an email, "so employers need to make sure they are describing their culture appropriately on their website and are mindful of what is posted on social media or review sites." Even if an employer is working with a staffing agency, that employer should convey culture information to help the agency pass on the correct messaging to potential hires, he added.
At Wpromote, a digital marketing agency, culture is part of the company's overall branding and messaging, translating seamlessly into HR and recruitment efforts. Its motto, "Make Mondays Suck Less," is at the forefront of job postings and candidate interviews, Wpromote's SVP of Marketing Jamie Farrell told HR Dive.
"We ensure that they know when you work at Wpromote, you are excited to come into the office every Monday morning, and every other day of the week," Farrell said in an email. The company tagline, "Think Like A Challenger," is also a big part of their culture.
Kim Dawson, director of employee experience at YouEarnedIt/HighGround, noted that culture has to be embedded in the company. "The best way to make sure the right message and company culture come through to candidates is to ensure that your entire organization is internally aligned on what that message is," she said to HR Dive in an email. If everyone at your company is thinking about your culture and message the same way, those core values will resonate easily with job seekers, she added.
But culture has to be more than a slogan or a message in your annual report, Dawson said. It has to align with everything you do.
"If your company has created a culture that truly values the employee experience, and your employees understand your core values and what they look like in action, this alignment should come very easily," she said. Those values will translate seamlessly to candidates during the interview process.
Making sure culture efforts reap benefits
An employer may be working hard to create and promote a strong culture message, but checking in with employees and candidates to assure the message is coming through is key. Farrell said that Wpromote invests a lot of resources in collecting feedback.
"While we often trust our gut to make decisions," he said, "we know that we need to follow up to ensure that our initiatives pay off. We proactively ask candidates and employees to rate us on Glassdoor to get open and honest feedback."
Survey staff to get a sense of how they are feeling, Good said, and be prepared to make adjustments if negative feedback is received. Few things are more frustrating to employees and candidates than being asked for their feedback and seeing nothing be done with it.
Preventing a bad first impression
The devil is in the details when it comes to first impressions. Good suggested making sure candidates are greeted warmly and that the interview process goes smoothly. Running late and making them wait makes it seem like your time is more valuable than theirs.
"Remember," he said, "it's a two-way street when a candidate comes in to interview — just as you are gauging whether they are a good fit, they are also taking a look at your business culture and determining whether they can envision a career there."
Dawson suggests over-communicating expectations and next steps since candidates are interviewing your company just as much as your hiring team is interviewing them. "Be honest, keep candidates in the loop at every step, do everything you can to ensure they have a good experience interviewing with your company and, most importantly, don't waste their time," she said.
More ways to boost your culture
Conversations about culture don't begin and end with interviews; they should be intertwined with every communication you exchange and in every relationship you foster. Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool, and today's word-of-mouth has internet reach.
"If your employees love their jobs," Dawson said, "they're much more likely to tell their friends, co-workers, and even social media followers." That can lead to employee referrals, an excellent source of talent and an outstanding way to send your message.
But don't forget the core aspects of the interview itself as a medium for culture communication.
"How questions are asked during the interview can reflect the culture," Good said. Hiring managers' tone of voice, sense of humor and seriousness can be telling to prospective new team members. The format of the interview (e.g. panel versus one-on-one) can also give a sense of the culture, he added.
Finding a match
Not every applicant will be comfortable in an unstructured workplace and, vice versa, some will be stifled in a rigid organization. Good suggested that employers be prepared to describe their culture and be open to questions from candidates. They're trying to see themselves fitting into your organization as much as you are.
At YouEarnedIt/HighGround, recruiters use behavioral interview questions that don't necessarily have a right or wrong answer to determine whether a candidate has an inherent connection to their core values. This works better for them than tactical, typical interview questions.
Farrell recommended ensuring there's a healthy balance of "asking questions and leaving time to share stories about what it's like to work at Wpromote." They discuss what to expect a typical day to look like at the company and where the candidate could make an impact.
Businesses work hard to develop and nurture a strong culture message. But for that message to truly succeed, they must make sure every step of the recruitment process translates culture to job seekers and beyond.