The Key to Every Hiring Decision… A Cultural Fit

By David A. Mersky

We live in a world where technical skills, industry knowledge, and relevant experience are no longer enough to define the perfect hire. These matter, of course. But they are not as important as how well a new employee fits within your organization’s culture and shares its core values.

Do candidates manifest the attitudes and behaviors that will enhance your ability to achieve your mission and vision? Particularly when seeking frontline fundraisers, do they have the interpersonal skills and love of people – board members, donors, prospective funders, etc. – to enable them to succeed?

Moreover, you want people who are open to new ideas. This is what your organization requires to compete for attention and funding in what has become an increasingly complex environment.

It may be that you will hire people who are very different from you – in background, temperament, abilities. But if they share your organization’s core values, they can become strong members of your team. 

A New Workplace Environment

Cultural fit has always mattered. But today’s post-pandemic world has upped the ante. Many people now refuse opportunities unless given a fully remote option; some are reluctant to take a chance on making a career move; others want to work less (or not at all). 

Taken together, this has made identifying, recruiting, engaging, and retaining quality people more difficult. In that context, if you make a mistake in hiring, it’s going to be more expensive and take more time to fix. That’s why it is essential at the outset to find prospective employees who will be a strong fit for your organization’s culture and values, and who possess the interpersonal skills necessary to succeed.

Find the Perfect Match

It used to be said that if you hired a brilliant person, that was all you needed to do because they would figure out the rest. But the genius who does not share your organization’s core values and have the interpersonal skills will never be a strong member of your team and will quickly become isolated and ineffective.

It really is about finding a values match. You need to find people who participate eagerly in formulating a vision, who thrive in a learning environment, and who create alignment with their colleagues and the ethos of your organization.

Great organizations treat these kinds of employees as the treasures they are because they understand their value, both internally to their colleagues as well as externally with all your stakeholders.

So, what can you do to identify and hire those who will integrate smoothly into your organization?

#1. Always be looking.

Not only when you have an opening. As you do your networking, meeting new people and strengthening existing relationships, be mindful of those who may be a good fit – whether or not they are looking for a new job or you have one to offer. This is “unconstrained recruiting;” the person you meet today may become your most valued employee six months or a year from now.

#2 Favor potential over experience.

Don’t be so risk-averse that you need to find someone who has done exactly what you think the job requires. After all, the job may very well change and what you thought was relevant experience may no longer be.Hire instead those with an insatiable curiosity and a demonstrated capacity to learn.

#3. Seek a specific kind of intelligence. 

Perfect SAT scores and a 4.0 GPA don’t necessarily add up to the kind of wisdom that will help them succeed in your organization. They must be pragmatically inclined, linguistically agile (both orally and in writing), and able to respond with great facility when challenged.

#4. Avoid the lone ranger. 

Collaboration is a necessity. You want people who will readily share information, solve problems cooperatively, and who are emotionally and socially committed to the success of the enterprise as a whole.

Cultural Fit Comes First

There are no guarantees when bringing a new person on board. But if you follow these four principles, you are more likely to ensure a strong and lasting match. 

And you, as the manager or leader, will build a team that will enable your organization to be nimble, facile, and above all, successful.