Recruitment Simplified – Part IV

This is Part IV in a new series launched through Morrison's People Solutions Monthly, a regular email providing valuable insight into human resources and other related topics. Click here if you'd like to sign up to receive Morrison's People Solutions Monthly email.

Assessing Fit

Poor cultural fit is often cited as the most common reason a new hire does not work out long term, and there have been a number of studies and surveys conducted over the years that would seem to support this common understanding. We previously discussed two of the three primary selection measures that must be addressed to ensure a successful recruitment: 1) KSA’s (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities) and 2) Competencies. In this next segment of our Recruitment Simplified series, we will address the third essential element: Cultural Fit

Two candidates with the exact same background, KSA’s, and competencies can be very different regarding how they fit and interact in a particular organization. This is primarily due to differences in the way we as individuals see the world around us and the manner in which we choose to interact with other people. These differences are related primarily to our interests, drivers, values, and motivators. Someone who places a high value on working succinctly and efficiently so they can be home with family or pursuing hobbies outside of work will not fit well in an organization that values fun and games at work, and where much of the individual social engagement in a person’s life is their work relationships. In a more concrete example, an executive that comes from the consumer packaged goods industry may have cost savings engrained in their business and cultural DNA. When faced with a cost savings measure that will sacrifice the quality of the product but have little effect on consumers buying behavior, they may move forward with the project without a second thought. This may be very appropriate behavior in one industry culture, but would not fit well in an organization that is known for staunch quality and consistency of their product, servicing a highly discriminating customer base. Both organizations value profitability and quality, yet the emphasis that one places on each essential aspect of the product and business can make or break an individual’s particular contribution to an organization’s success.   

In Part III we explored the way a candidate’s qualifications can be examined through behavioral interviewing. Behavioral interviewing can explore cultural fit as well. In the example above, an interviewer may ask a candidate to tell them about a time when they had an opportunity to reduce the manufacturing cost of a product, where the change would have an effect on the quality that consumers would notice, but that it would not significantly affect buying behavior. Evaluating the candidates previous approach to the situation at their former employer can be an important indication of where the person may fit in the organization they are apply to.

Another powerful tool in measuring cultural fit is psychometrics, or what we typically think of as the personality test. Personality fit has been demonstrated to be one of the best predictors of a successful placement. An accountant with a personality type that is highly social and outgoing can be a great fit in an organization with a sales and relationship oriented culture. In the same respect, an accountant that is highly analytical, curious, and introverted would be a great fit in a test laboratory. 

Psychometric assessments are a powerful recruiting tool, but they must be structured properly, especially when they are used as one of the measures for hiring decisions. They can be as problematic as valuable if not structured properly. Just like every other aspect of the selection process, it’s essential that any evaluation of a candidate’s fit avoid discrimination or invading any aspect of a candidate’s right to personal privacy.  

A court case from 1991, Soroka v. Dayton Hudson Corp, dba Target Stores, provided some guidance on the proper administration of pre-employment personality tests. Target Stores hired a consultant to administer pre-employment tests to security guard candidates. A group of security guards that were denied employment filed suit, citing that certain questions that related to sexual orientation and religious beliefs were in violation of their rights. A California Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the security guard candidates. Though there was an appeal and the case settled out of court, it provided a good framework for pre-offer psychometric assessments, and the need to avoid any questions that could be in violation of employment law.

Psychometric testing, just like any testing, must be able to demonstrate that the subject matter of the test is valid. To be valid it must measure criteria that has a direct correlation to the job, and as stated above, avoid any discrimination or privacy violations. These tests are highly valuable and when administered properly offer a great deal of benefit. There are a small number of psychometric evaluations that have stood up well in the court system. Employers should understand which test to use and why.

About the Author

Shawn Miller is a principal at Morrison working primarily in our People Solutions practice.

To get in touch with Shawn, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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