What Is Cultural Fit and How Do You Hire for It?

Posted on March 1, 2019

Every company has its own corporate culture and proverbial personality. “Corporate culture”
refers to a company’s general attitude, which often reflects the mindset of a company’s upper
management and serves as a common premise that defines how things are done and what is

Company culture is an integral part of business and is no longer seen as an afterthought when
considering the business strategy and focus of an organization. It affects nearly every aspect of an
organization. From recruiting top talent to improving employee satisfaction, culture is the
backbone of a happy workforce. Without a positive corporate culture, many employees will
struggle to find the real value in their work, and this leads to retention issues and other negative
consequences for the overall organization and the individual teams.

An ever-growing body of research points to the positive impact the right corporate culture can
have in increasing performance, retention, loyalty and, ultimately, the organization’s bottom line.
A study conducted by The University of Iowa confirms that employees who fit well with their
organization, coworkers and management have greater job satisfaction, less turnover and higher
on-the-job performance. “It’s not exactly ground-breaking stuff when we talk about the
importance of cultural fit,” the report reads. “Drilling down into this makes business sense.”

Broadly speaking, cultural fit means that an employee’s beliefs and behaviors are in alignment
with their employer’s core values and the company culture. For each company that can mean
something inherently different. It can also vary from team to team and department to department
within a single organization.

Define Your Culture
Before you can hire for cultural fit, it is imperative that the organization and legal team clearly
articulate what the culture is as well as what the nuances are for the legal team in particular.
What are the aligned values, beliefs, behaviors and experiences that make up the organization’s
and team’s environment? If culture isn’t defined, or the definition does not match reality, cultural
fit can start to mean different things, or simply: “Are they like me? Do they think/work/live like
me?” A hiring process built around an undefined notion of culture fit can lead to homogeneous
cultures and results in a problematic lack of diversity.

To begin defining your culture, it is important that you get really granular and determine exactly
what makes someone successful at your company and on your team. It is particularly important
to determine what it takes to thrive, versus just do well, in the company:

Start at the top. This process should begin with talking to members of senior management to
determine their goal and management styles and how top management works with each other. Sit
down with your CEO and other top C-suite executives and ask them what makes a “perfect
employee.” Also, write down your vision for the perfect employee in the legal department. This is
the best way to start, but you need other input as well.

Analyze your top performers and look at those who failed – what made them fail? Why were they
not successful?

Talk to the lawyers on your team and ask them to describe the culture in their view. Does their
perspective align with what you believe the culture is or should be? How is the legal department
viewed within the company? Understanding a company’s corporate culture and the overall
cultural context within which the legal team operates is critical to ensuring that in-house counsel
provide advice that is pragmatic and effective—and implemented by the client. Taking into
consideration the atmosphere in which advice is heard is often as important as ensuring that the
advice is legally correct.

Be honest with yourself about what the reality is and what you will need to do to make your vision
come to fruition.

Streamline Your Hiring Process
Next, you need to make sure your hiring process is effective at evaluating talent.

–    Incorporate elements of your culture into your marketing. Show your organization’s
personality on your social media channels and in the communications you send. Your
position descriptions should reflect the values of the organization and team and set the
tone for what a perspective employee can expect if he or she joins the team.

–     Look for cultural fit throughout the interview process. This is crucial! Come up with
behavioral interview questions that will help you pinpoint the candidates that fit best and
think carefully about the kind of answers that you want. We’ve found that it’s far easier to
judge ‘fit’ over lunch or dinner, through an informal chat, than it is in the formal structures
of an interview process.

–     Maintain consistency in your culture beyond the interview. Make sure you are walking the
walk once a new hire joins the team. New hires should feel welcomed on their first day in a
manner that aligns with the culture you have sold them and that you want to live.

Hiring is a complex process and fit is a crucial factor. Companies that put culture first are
becoming icons for job seekers—especially the future generation of leaders who place a premium
on work-life balance and culture fit when choosing where to work. There’s a reason why
companies who are named as a “Best Place to Work” see so much success: These organizations
tend to have strong, positive corporate cultures that help employees feel and perform their best at

To hire those attorneys who will best fit on your legal team and within the organization, gain a
deep understanding for your organization’s overall culture as well as the culture of your legal
team. Then use your hiring process to identify team members who will fit well with that culture
and help maintain it.

by Major, Lindsey & Africa  https://www.mlaglobal.com/en/knowledge-library/articles/what-is-cultural-fit-and-how-do-your-hire-for-it?byconsultantorauthor=edina-beasley  Edina Beasley