Three tips to assess cultural fit

16 August 2019 By Chris Morrison GAICD



Identifying a candidate's cultural alignment with your organisation is a critical step for any hiring process. Cultural fit describes the 'likelihood that someone will reflect and/or be able to adapt to the core beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that make up your organisation' (Harvard Business Review), and a poor culture fit can result in turnover which can be costly for an organisation. One study showed that where there is good cultural alignment between an employee and an organisation, that employee performs at a superior level and is more likely to stay with their organisation. 


So how can you reduce the likelihood of making a poor hire? 


1. Context is important


Firstly, you need to really understand the culture of your organisation, the team that this person will be working within, and also their direct manager's style. If you don't know what you're assessing against, it can be difficult to determine whether there is a fit or not. 


It's also important that you share your context with the candidate. For example, you could provide a tour of your workplace at the end of an interview or arrange for a more informal meeting with their prospective team. This will help the candidate assess their alignment with the organisation and also give you an opportunity to observe how they interact with potential colleagues. 


2. Ask the right questions


Any interview should include dedicated questioning to assess the cultural fit of the prospective employee. I recommend that you don't start the interview with these questions, rather, wait until the candidate is more relaxed before you begin to probe. Candidates are often expecting questions about their previous experience, so these open-ended questions can sometimes throw them off if asked too early. There are a variety of questions you could ask which can help you understand what types of environments the candidate will excel in. Some common questions that I will regularly ask are:

  • Describe your ideal working environment.

  • What do you enjoy about your current workplace?

  • How does a manager get the best out of you?

  • Describe the best team that you've ever worked in.


3. Use psychometric assessment 


Relevant testing can also help you assess cultural fit. Often psychometric testing is completed at the end of the process with one or two preferred applicants. I recommend that instead, you complete any testing prior to panel interviews. This will help reduce the risk of confirmation bias and will provide valuable insight for areas to probe during the interview. At Meritos, we use the Hogan Insight Reports to help understand a candidates strengths, performance risks and core values. 


We are also watching with keen interest, the exciting developments at the intersection of psychometric assessment and artificial intelligence. Helena Turpin, Digital Talent Innovation Lead at Deloitte thinks that it won't be too long until we're all assessing cultural fit using emerging artificial intelligence: "there are now tools like PymetricsGooroo or which help you understand if a candidate is likely to succeed in a role before you even meet them."  This has the potential to deepen our understanding at even earlier stages of the recruitment process. 


While technology can be a great enabler for assessing cultural fit, I wouldn't recommend that it be used in isolation. It's still important to interview a candidate face to face to assess their skills, experiences, motivation and alignment to the role requirements. 



We would love to hear your thoughts on how you assess cultural fit. Please get in touch using the details below. 


About the author


Chris Morrison is the founder and Director of Meritos, an executive search and recruitment business working with purpose-driven organisations. If you're interested in connecting with Chris, you can find him on LinkedIn here. You can also reach him on 02 9055 6836 or via email at