The business world has talked ad nauseum about the importance of culture the past few years. But we often don't do a very good job of protecting said culture during hiring.

Everyone wants the best and the brightest on their team -- but what happens when the best and the brightest aren't the best thing for your culture? A bad culture fit doesn't just erode what you've built; it can also speed up turnover. While you'll likely have trouble retaining people who aren't a great culture fit, you're also at risk of losing the very people who strengthen your culture. As the culture changes, where do they belong?

In a tight job market, attracting the best talent isn't easy. A lengthier process -- counterintuitive though it may seem -- may just be your best bet for landing the right people.

Champion Culture at the Expense of Experience

The National Association of Colleges and Employers' Job Outlook 2017 survey found that 91 percent of employers hire for experience. Sixty-five percent, in fact, look specifically for industry-relevant experience. But should experience and established skills trump culture?

I spoke to Ben Wright, the CEO and founder of Velocity Global, a provider of global employment solutions that helps companies expand overseas and the fourth-fastest-growing company on the 2018 Inc. 5000 list. He strongly believes that hiring the right people on the front end drives company culture and growth. He said, "For us, it really starts and ends with culture. We want this to be a once-in-a-professional-lifetime experience for the employees who work here."

Velocity Global follows a five-step process to locate the best employees. Using a rating system of one through 10, with 10 being the highest, the company only hires 10s. The thinking behind this: If you're a nine, you're a 10 at another company -- and that's where you should go. Wright attributes the firm's fast growth and low turnover, estimated below five percent, to this rigorous process.

To locate those 10s, Wright and his team hire for culture fit rather than skill set or experience: "Our biggest mistake has been over-emphasizing experience over culture," he says. Here are the five steps the company takes to prioritize culture:

1. Phone Screen

This conversation mainly focuses on the interviewee's goals, what she's good at professionally and what she's looking for in the next phase of her career. Velocity Global doesn't take a deep dive into the candidate's résumé until the second phase. Instead, the team wants to get to know the person on the other end of the line during this 30-minute call. "We really want to know what makes them tick," Wright told me. "What makes them get out of bed in the morning. What makes them an amazing person."

Some people have complained on Glassdoor that they didn't even read their résumés on the first interaction, but that's intentional: The focus is truly on fit before diving into the rest.

2. Review Résumé in Detail

After the Velocity Global team feels in sync with a candidate, it reviews the person's résumé line by line, focusing on the most recent three work experiences (if applicable). "We don't focus on what job you did. We focus much more on what makes you passionate," Wright explained. "What are the things you're proud of? Where did you really struggle or fail? Tell me how that made you a better professional as you went on."

The goal isn't to dwell on failure, but "to make sure you are a 10 and that you are a 10 that can shine in our system," as Wright says. Values are integrated into the interview process, with set questions designed around the company's values.

3. Team Interview 

The third stage involves an interview with the team the candidate would be working with or her departmental teammates. In my experience as a consultant, team interviews help spot problems with how a candidate will gel with those closest to them. They can also spotlight creative chemistry between a team and a prospective hire.

4. Debrief with the Internal Team

After the team interview, the stakeholders convene to discuss their impressions and figure out how projects would be assigned or managed with this potential new teammate, including their strengths, weaknesses and skills.

5. Homework Assignment 

Candidates who've surpassed those hurdles tackle a hypothetical homework assignment, which can range from research to a project, depending on the role. The candidate then presents the project -- salespeople, for example, may be asked to pitch Velocity Global's services. Do they have the intellectual courage to do the homework?

Culture is vital to how successful businesses are, but you wouldn't know it by how some companies hire. By putting culture first, you may just achieve the growth you want -- and a once-in-a-professional-lifetime experience for everyone involved.

Published on: Jun 11, 2019
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