Answer by Richard Walker, Entrepreneur and CEO, on Quora

Want to attract the best talent and keep them? There’s a simple formula to follow, and it’s not about the money.

Perfect Candidate = Ideal Cultural Fit + Proven Ability To Do The Job

There are only three reasons why any hiring manager will hire someone.

1. Best Cultural Fit
2. Proven Ability
3. Need For The Role

What Is Your Culture?
When you hire for culture first, you’re ensuring that the person you choose will fit in with your existing team. Culture is your unwritten rules, your philosophies, your methods, your beliefs, your way of doing things, even down to your mannerisms and how you dress. When the rock band AC/DC needed a new singer, they didn’t choose a female ballad singer, they chose a hard-rocking, leather-wearing man who fit their style, image and energy. When you’re hiring, whether you are aware of it or not, you’re doing the same thing.

The key to success then is to know how to define and identify your culture in others. Many companies operate with a culture that is not well-defined; it is not codified or written down. The more you can clearly define your culture, the easier it becomes to attract people to your company who want that cultural fit. In some cases culture is in your vision and mission statement, and other times it’s a lot of little things adding up like a secret recipe. Whatever your culture is, you’ll be well served to understand it and find ways to identify it in others.

With your culture in mind, your interview process should be shaped around revealing whether someone fits into your company or not. For example, you might ask hypothetical questions that demonstrate how a candidate might act to see if they would behave in a way that would work well for your team or rub everyone the wrong way. You can also tell how someone fits in by what they do or don’t do before, during and after an interview. For example, perhaps your company is notorious for starting meetings late and your candidate showed up 30 minutes early – maybe that’s too early for comfort and not a strong fit for you.

Proving The Ability To Perform
Proving one’s ability is not evidenced by their previous job titles. It’s not even having performed in the same role before. And it’s definitely not proven by a candidate simply saying that they can do it when given the chance.

Proof is in the results of a candidate’s actions. The simplest way to see results is to talk to references and hear other people describe the results. The best way is for a candidate to perform during the job search process. For example, if you’re hiring for a sales role, the best candidate will bring you a prospective customer or a methodology for bringing in a new customer. A marketing person might design a hypothetical ad campaign. A software developer might find a bug in your software or at least do some kind of performance testing of your product.

There are countless ways for a candidate to prove their ability regardless of their past roles. You, as a hiring manager, don’t need to go by their resume and last job position to determine if they can do the work. Feel free to give your job seekers a challenge or homework that forces them to demonstrate their value to you.

Need For The Role
If you’ve hired more than one person, how many times has the perfect candidate simply walked in the door with the ideal cultural fit and proven ability to do the job? I’ll bet it happens once out of 1,000 candidates, and even then it’s mostly dumb luck. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to search for a job and therefore don’t know what culture will make them happy, nor how to prove themselves capable of doing the job.

If the perfect candidate were to walk in the door right now, what would keep you from offering them a job? Really, the only thing stopping you is whether you have a job opening – a need for their role. Since you’re already in the position of hiring, you know the need for a given role and this last factor in your decision process is simple.

Success With This Method
Personally, this focus on hiring for culture first and ability second has lead me to hiring better people than I could have hoped for. When I advertised for entry level positions, I attracted overly qualified people who were looking for the right cultural fit. In the end that meant we could negotiate terms on a broader list of benefits than simply money. More importantly, this approach attracts higher quality candidates and has made my search less expensive and more efficient.

When you look at some of the top companies in the world, you’ll see that they have hired for culture. Some of the companies I admire most, including Fidelity Investments and American Funds, have such strongly defined cultural attributes that you’ll find the average employee has worked there for 5, 10, 15 and 20+ years. People rarely stay with a company purely for economic reasons, but they almost always stay when they feel like the company is their home and a part of their identity.

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Published on: Jul 28, 2015