Hiring for Culture Fit in 2023

Recruiting and Hiring

Hiring for Culture Fit in 2023

March 21st, 2023 by Amy Suitter

Newsletter header that shows the title and an image of people waiting to be interviewed

Hiring for Culture Fit in 2023 by Bill Benson

Are you struggling to find people who will stay with you long term? Do you have an intentional process to evaluate fit? We still see companies screening and measuring candidates against largely tangible requirements. Most companies see the importance of culture fit, but it hasn’t translated to the interview process. A best practice would be to evaluate both tangible and intangible qualities. If someone fails or leaves after a short time it is often related to how they fit within the company or some other intangible factor. Hiring an employee that fits well with the team and has a baseline of experience to build from is often a better hire than someone who has all the experience but doesn’t fit the company well.

It is easy to attach confidence to a candidate with parallel experience or be infatuated with a specific aspect like a skill set or competitor experience. Many of the factors we see as important are often skills that can be learned. Personality, drive, character, willingness to change, interest in learning and many other factors are inherent and won’t change.

The most discussed aspect of fit is “culture fit.” Culture fit refers to the compatibility of an individual with a company’s values, beliefs, and working style. The idea behind hiring for culture fit is that employees who share the company’s culture are more likely to be happy, productive, and stay with the company longer.

Consider employees within your company who are succeeding. What are the qualities they possess that make them successful? They have a good understanding of what it takes to be successful in your organization. It’s important to take a good look at the factors pivotal to the success of your top employees. This gives you insight on qualities to seek with your new hires.

When considering culture fit in the hiring process employers typically assess an applicant’s values, communication style, work ethic, and personality. This can be done through various methods such as:

Interviews: The interviewer can ask open-ended questions such as, “describe a culture that is a good fit for you?” “What elements or characteristics are you seeking in your next work environment?” “If you could wave a magic wand – what would you change in your current environment?” Here are some additional questions to consider.

References: Speaking to the candidate’s past colleagues or managers can provide insights into their work ethic and how they fit into a team.

Behavioral and situational interview questions: These types of questions can provide insight into how the candidate might handle different scenarios in the workplace.

Work samples and tests: Review a candidate’s previous work or give them a test or project that can give a clearer idea of their skills and abilities, as well as their approach to problem-solving.

Company events and activities: Inviting candidates to company events or activities can give them a sense of the company culture and help determine if they would be a good fit. Having the potential candidate spend some time in your environment will also give you a feel for how they fit.

Dinner or lunch: Having a candidate out with a small group in an informal setting like dinner or lunch will give you insight into their social skills.

Family-owned businesses have unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to hiring and building a successful workforce. Typically, these companies have strong cultures that value people, customers, relationships and teamwork. In the post covid environment, many of these family business values resonate with employees looking for stability in a caring environment. It is critical for these culture rich environments to take extra time to evaluate alignment. Here are a couple of tips for family businesses leaders:

  • Designate a key family member who has strong alignment and passion for the culture of the organization and involve them in the interview process.
  • Have a clear understanding of the elements that make up your culture and use those to help promote your brand. Elements like a focus on safety or employee development are examples that reinforce an environment that is meeting the needs of its employees.
  • Trusting relationships are developed when the employee believes the employer is focused on collective interests rather than profit. Make sure interviews are a two-way street where you ask questions about what is important to the candidate and what is important to you.
  • Develop purposeful opportunities for employees to volunteer and get involved with a community or not-for-profit organization. These activities will reinforce your culture of caring.

Here are some areas of “fit” to check that can contribute to an employee’s success:

1. Readiness to adapt and change
2. Self-Directed
3. Motivation and Drive
4. Values Alignment
5. Interest in Learning – Creative, Inquisitive
6. Capability to Work Collaboratively
7. Emotional Intelligence
8. Pro-Active – Able to “see the work” as well as execute.
9. Leadership Style
10. Character and Integrity

The cost of a hiring mistake can be 3-5 times the amount of the employee’s annual salary. A good interview, reference and assessment process will help you find a great fit for your organization.

Happy Employee Hunting!


6 Steps to Building an Onboarding Plan

February 23rd, 2021 by Amy Suitter

6 Steps to Build an Onboarding Plan

It is natural after completing an exhaustive executive search to feel as though you have reached the finish line. Studies show the real work begins when the new executive begins employment. The first three to six months will have a major impact on the long-term trajectory of a new executive. 50% of executives fail or leave the organization within their first 18 months. This Harvard Review article also points out the actual cost of these hiring mistakes can easily be ten times the annual salary.  (It is also well documented that these failures are rooted in mistakes and missteps during the first 3 – 6 months.)

The best approach is to have an onboarding or “integration” plan crafted in advance for the new executive beginning employment. The right time to build this plan is during the executive search if not before. Here are six steps for building that plan.

  1. Build a list of goals and actions for the first 3, 6 and 12 months. This is a good companion to the job description. This list of goals, actions and desired achievements is often the best tool to use in vetting potential candidates. This will serve as the center piece of the onboarding plan. This also allows an opportunity to level set expectations across constituencies.
  2. Facilitate key meetings and introductions. Of course, you will have an itinerary for the new executive that includes meetings with the key stakeholders surrounding the person’s role. Just as important is identifying other key influencers and individuals that may be “derailers” or “challenging personalities”. Having a good understanding of the political landscape will be important to this new person as they navigate this new environment.
  3. Defining the Culture and evaluating candidates for culture fit is critical. Even if you feel you have hired a good fit for your culture, a new person will not inherently understand the norms, behaviors and idiosyncrasies that exist in an organization. Giving a new executive insight and guidance with these factors will provide them with a much less bumpy path.
  4. Establish the right pace of change. We can all agree that turning the furniture over on the first day is a bad course of action. Organizations differ dramatically on the expected behavior and approach during the first 90 days of employment. In many cases the company is asking for this time to be focused on gaining understanding and building relationships.  In other organizations the new person is expected to hit the ground running and evaluated on early wins. It is easy to envision an executive reaching for that “early win” only to find out it was a misstep. You want to hire people who will get things done, but ensure you are setting the person up to move at the proper pace.
  5. Communication and feedback along with way is critical. Plan feedback events at three, six and twelve months. Create open lines of communication with check-ins daily when moments require it. Unanticipated questions will no doubt arise during those first days of employment. Your style might not be “directive”, but every new hire needs direction at the start. Everyone brings their own set of behaviors from their past work environments and cultures that will raise questions.
  6. Understanding team dynamics is critical for a new executive. How to effectively work across an organization and how to build teamwork within the culture will be critical knowledge. What worked best in a previous culture may not be the best approach in a new environment. In some environments clear direction is critical and in other environments a more empowered group will be demotivated by a directive leadership approach. On the other hand, if a group is used to being “directed” …they may not adapt easily to an empowering approach.

It is always helpful to have outside coaching and advising firms assisting with onboarding and development of team members. Two such firms include:

Pondera Advisors – Leader and Team Development/Integration and pre-employment assessment & more.  https://ponderaadvisors.com/

Avenue Consulting – Onboarding and Executive Coaching & more. www.avenueleadership.com

Sources and good reads:




How to Hire Better Talent

November 23rd, 2020 by Amy Suitter

How To Hire Better Talent

Selecting the Right Candidate

Successfully finding and hiring the best people is largely based on selecting the right candidate during a hiring process. We often see postings with a laundry list of requirements relating to very specific experiences, industries or even technical requirements such as software skills. These items are typically taken right off the job description. This leads to the assumption that someone who checks all the boxes or has performed a similar role will be the best person to hire. Why is this likely the wrong approach? Let’s consider these six options.

1. What are the odds that the perfect “experience” candidate is also the best potential performer? Even if the candidate that checks all the boxes is out there, it would be like arranging the moon and the stars for that person to also be the best performer or talent available. It is very often not the case.

2. Often the job description does not address what you are looking for the person to accomplish. Make a list of desired outcomes for the prospective hire. This provides a better screening guideline.

3. What factors do you consider when you promote someone from within? Do you look at years of experience and check lists of requirements or do you consider their performance? Why not look at the same factors for external candidates?

4. You want to expand the field of candidates, not limit it. The best candidates typically evolve out of a larger pool, rather than a limited one. Despite the pandemic, we are still in a talent short market, and painting yourself into a corner with a long list of requirements will not help you hire the best person.

5. Don’t “fall in love” with a particular attribute or experience. E.g. Worked for a specific competitor or company, degree from a certain school, or other singular “WOW” factor. These biases or perceptions often have little to do with actual performance.

6. Finally, don’t disqualify a great candidate because of a particular factor. Just because you had a bad experience hiring someone from a certain company or with a certain background, it doesn’t mean that it applies to all candidates with that attribute. We all have a tendency to project our past issues forward, but it is important to stay objective and be open-minded, so we aren’t screening out someone that may be a great fit.

How to Hire Better Talent

Selecting a Search Firm

September 9th, 2020 by Amy Suitter

Selecting a Search Firm

by Bill Benson

There are many good reasons for companies to use an executive search firm. Two of these reasons include gaining access to a larger pool of potential candidates and adding a layer of candidate evaluation and screening. This extra layer will provide objectivity to help mitigate the costly risk of a hiring mistake. The right search professional will help you navigate the process to a successful outcome. When it comes to finding an executive, one size does not fit all. Your most important decision about the search will involve selecting the right partner to help lead you to the right candidate. Whether you are leading a Search Committee hiring a CEO or you’re seeking a top executive or a key specialized technical resource…. choosing the right search firm partner will likely determine your success. .

This article will explore 6 factors to help you make the right decision.

1.Capability to Build a Complete Candidate Pool

The key to a successful search is building a high-quality and deep talent pool. This is accomplished by recruiting candidates who are not actively looking. Active or networking candidates are just the “tip of the iceberg”. You may get lucky and find a great person through an ad or posting, but it is hard to measure a candidate without strong comparisons. Make sure your search firm partner is primarily a search/recruiting firm. Understand how they are accessing the entire pool of candidates (iceberg). Many consulting firms and human resource organizations include executive search as a service offering. These firms are typically posting the position along with some networking. You want to make sure the prospective search firm is focused on researching and outreach as a key part of the process.

2. Where Should the Firm be Located?

I think we have all heard the quote “A profit is not without honor, except in his own land”. Don’t assume the right search solution is a large “national” firm and located in a big city. It is a misconception that a national search cannot be conducted from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Des Moines, Iowa, or any other location. A firm located nearby will be more effective in selling the local “place to live and work” to an unfamiliar out of town candidate.You will have less cost and flight risk with candidates who do not have to relocate. Every search starts concentrically with the local market or region, so leaping to a large city out of your area may not be in your best interest. The firm located near you is also more likely to care about building a long-term relationship due to having shared interests and contacts. Clearly if you are seeking a “C level” executive for a large company, someone who specializes in these positions may be located in a larger city or work for that “name brand” search firm. When selecting a firm specialized in a vertical space like Fashion, CPG or Pharma, that firm might be located where the industry is concentrated. Sometimes the best resource for a specific niche may be located in a completely different location.

3. Evaluate the “Person” Not Just the Firm

You might believe that hiring that “name brand” search firm will assure a successful outcome. It is more likely the person conducting the search will determine the success of the search. Top consultants at these larger firms are working on high profile positions. If you are looking for the CFO of General Motors, you want someone networked at that level. If you are a mid-sized company looking for an executive, then you often get a more experienced search professional when you work with a boutique, mid-sized firm. Ask questions to understand who will be conducting the search, vetting the candidates, and consulting on the assignment. A trusting relationship with the professional conducting the search is important. You also need a search professional who understands and can assess work style and culture fit. Often, an executive is derailed due to “fit” rather than technical capability. The right consulting resource will also help you navigate the onboarding/integration of the candidate as well.

4. Demonstrated and Repetitive Success

When selecting a search firm, you want a firm that can demonstrate that they have successfully completed similar searches. Everyone believes their business and industry is unique, but you do not need a clockmaker to find a COO of a clock manufacturing company. You need a clockmaker to make a clock and an executive search professional with repetitive success filling leadership positions with companies of similar size. The firm should have success within the function (finance, operations, sales) and/or the industry or related industries. The other two factors are the location and level of the position. If your position is a “C level” position in a Fortune 500 company then you want a firm that has worked on similar positions. If you are a mid-sized family-owned business, then experience with these organizations is important.

5. Gauge the Motivation & Commitment Level

Not every firm or individual will approach your assignment with the same level of commitment. Make sure the firm/search consultant is fully invested in finding the candidate who will deliver the best results. Do you have mutual interests or connections with the firm? How important is your business to this firm? You want to feel as though the search professional has a shared responsibility for the successful outcome beyond collecting a fee. Do you feel as though your relationship is important to them? Do they offer a guarantee that backs up their commitment?

6. Costs, Capacity and Other Factors to Consider

While you want to understand the total costs associated with selecting a firm you do not want to use price as a primary reason to exclude or select a firm. The value associated with hiring the right candidate should far exceed any price difference. You want to understand the search professional’s capacity to perform the search. If you’re selecting a firm due to their specialization within an industry, make sure the search professional is not hamstrung from contacting candidates who might be working for “clients” within that industry space. Ask whether specific companies are “off limits” because they are clients. This will give you a good start to determine the right search firm partner for your critical hiring need.Selecting an Executive Search Firm


Do you have a strategic HR function?

August 4th, 2020 by Amy Suitter

Do you have a strategic HR function?

Where is HR in your company? We often hear the euphemism “seat at the table” as a descriptive term to determine whether a human resource function truly participates in steering company strategy. Does your HR function have a “seat at the table”?  The human resources function plays a key role in the operating of a company. These traditional roles include; managing policies and discipline, employee administration, benefits and payroll. They resolve people issues and support managers in hiring, training and managing labor practices. They are often the fixer of other people’s problems. They are often the advocate or voice for employees.  Everyone will agree these are critical functions to do well. Many companies operate just fine with a tactical but not strategic human resources function. Many of these companies get exactly what they want and expect from HR. In order to get to the next level it is likely that a more evolved HR function will be necessary. The need might be driven by increased competition and rising performance expectations or a need for more consistency throughout an organization. Organizational development facilitated by a professional is invaluable from the standpoint of succession planning and talent optimization. Organizational effectiveness and culture leadership can make the difference in sustaining the culture of an organization through these large changes. You may need executive compensation advice, improved HR technology or a more sophisticated performance management system. In reality, you probably need it all. We will further explore by asking questions to understand your current state and then offer five characteristics of a strategic HR function

Start by asking these questions

1.   Where does HR report? It is often the case HR reports to either Operations (largest number of employees) or Finance (budget or compliance reasons). Often in these situations HR is not at the decision table. You may have good reasons for your structure but HR should ideally report to the top of the house for it to carry the right strategic weight.

2. Is your HR leader trusted and respected by the senior leadership team? This person needs to have iron clad relationships with the other senior executives.

3. Is HR primarily a compliance function? Are they obstructing needed change and growth? HR needs to proactively lead talent strategies to help the company move forward.

4. Can your HR Leader perform GAP analysis? Are they using KPI’s to measure success? Are they a business person as well as an HR person? Do the goals within human resources support the overall goals of the organization?

5. Do you view your HR function as modern? Do they look around the corner and at future trends? Do they embrace technology? What is the “employee brand” of your organization? What is their role in advancing the culture of the company?

5 Strategic HR Roles

1. Human Capital Expert – Maximizing the contribution of everyone within the organization. Talent acquisition and management strategies, training and leadership development, succession planning.

2. HR Strategist – Adapts both workforce and leadership structure to align with the future. Organizational development and effectiveness, measure results, survey, correct course as necessary.

3. Culture Keeper – How is the culture communicated? Are we “Walking the Talk?” Is the culture reflective of where the company wants to go? Does it represent what is “right” vs. what is expedient?

4. Change Manager – change occurs via people. Is the HR Leader the change leader (or one of them) within the organization?

5. Advisor/Consultant to CEO – Ensure HR goals and strategies are aligned with organizational goals and strategies. Key consultant and confidante within the senior leadership team.

Information from this article was a collaboration between WilliamCharles and Steve Crandall. Steve Crandall is an Executive HR professional, leadership coach and Master Trainer (L.E.T) Learn more about Steve at https://www.crandallpartners.com/principals-bio.

Contract or Interim Hiring

June 17th, 2019 by Amy Suitter

Contract or Interim Hiring

Most companies find contract staffing a complimentary addition to their overall staffing and talent acquisition strategy. Talent continues to be a challenge for companies given the supply and demand characteristics of the current economy and labor market. There are many reasons to consider hiring a contract employee.

  1. Stay Flexible – One constant in business is change. Having a contingent element to your staffing budget gives you flexibility. This is true whether you are growing, shrinking or in a seasonal peak or valley. Contract options can help you stay lean.
  2. Fill a Gap – You need a solution for a period of time, but not permanently. This might be filling in for a maternity or some other leave of absence. Perhaps you feel you need additional head count in a particular area and bringing someone in on contract can help you determine the right level of staff to hire on a more permanent basis. When someone leaves unexpectedly, filling the position on a contract basis while you take the proper time to conduct a thorough search may be the right approach.
  3. Import a Skill – A contract resource can supplement your current team with a specific skill set or capability that is lacking. This also prevents you from making a long term hire for a specific skillset needed for a shorter term project or to build an organizational capability that doesn’t currently exist.
  4. Expand Resources – This current labor supply environment makes it challenging to find certain types of talent. You can expand your resources by making use of people who are open to gig or project type work. This is also an option when you simply need more hands on deck to get something accomplished.
  5. Contract to Hire – Sometimes all factors align and you may decide to convert a contract person to a direct hire. You now have a known quantity on board, a person that has already auditioned and can hit the ground running. This is a great way to tap into those on deck players for unexpected needs.
  6. Optimize Finances – Use contractors to manage peak work-loads and projects. Keeping your direct hiring level at a level constant with the “valleys” will optimize your fixed employment costs. This will make your CFO happy!

Hiring contract or interim talent for shorter term needs is a compelling strategy in today’s labor market. Many professionals are finding it advantageous to work interim gigs. They can utilize skill sets they have developed that are in demand, build relationships with a variety of organizations and keep a more flexible work-life balance by working on a contract basis.

We will dive deeper into this subject in our July newsletter including misperceptions along with a couple case studies. If you are considering hiring talent on an interim or project basis WilliamCharles Search Group is happy to discuss this option with you.

Call one of our search consultants to learn more: 616-464-4355

Hiring Mistakes Will Cost You: 5 Ways to Avoid Them

September 13th, 2017 by Amy Suitter

There is no hiding from a hiring mistake.

One HR professional once told me that a controller’s mistake is tucked away in a financial report but an HR mistake is walking around the company. The costs of these mistakes are significant. Just search “cost of a bad hire” on Google and read about the consequences. Most studies indicate that the cost of a hiring mistake for a professional level person is 2 to 5 times the annual salary. So what is the root cause of this issue?

A survey by Robert Half showed that one-third (36%) of 1,400 executives surveyed felt the top factor leading to a failed hire, aside from performance issues, is a poor skills match. The second most common reason (30%) was unclear performance objectives. A poor fit is another driver of candidates not sticking. These mistakes can be more expensive because they take longer to resolve. Another underestimated factor determining the success of a hire relates to motivation level and character. I personally believe these are the most important intangible factors that determine success.

Here are 5 things you can do to mitigate hiring mistakes:

  • Fully identify and understand the profile of the successful candidate.
    Consider all factors that determine success. This is includes motivation, character, emotional competency, fit with your culture and values, etc. Too many times, hiring managers are infatuated with a certain skill or experience aspect and lose sight of other critical requirements.
  • Focus the evaluation of the prospective candidate on how they fit the first year goals and expectations.
    rather than a list of job duties. The creation of a list of desired accomplishments, expectations and projects to complete will serve you in three ways.

    • Better to evaluate the candidate against what you expect them to accomplish, rather than a static job description.
    • Create the right expectation with the candidate.
    • You will have just completed a big part of your onboarding plan.
  • Interview the candidates for desired intangibles.
    It is easy to get very focused on behavioral interview questions developed from the job description and key requirements of the position. We can all agree that success takes place as a result of a person’s drive, willingness to take good risks, ability to deal effectively with people and fit well within a culture, etc.  We need to tailor interview questions to successfully evaluate all aspects of the candidate that will impact performance.
  • Listen and communicate.
    Listen to those around you. The best talent agents have blind spots. Everyone succeeds when the decision maker is listening to those around him. Communicate clearly all of the expectations to the candidate before you extend the offer. Often, candidates fail to fully understand the expectations and subsequently fall short.
  • Red waving flags should never be ignored or discounted.
    Learn to read basic signals that a candidate might be sending. One example: if the candidate is not responsive or slow to respond during the hiring process, consider this a message. Either they are not very interested in the job or they are not likely to ever be responsive. Every candidate tells a non-verbal story. This is every bit as important as the actual interview. They are glimpses of the person that you are committing to hire.