Brad Feld wrote an interesting post on hiring titled “Dilbert on Cultural Fit”. Brad is a well-known venture capitalist and he focuses his writings on startups. However, his posts, including this one, often apply to any company looking to hire, not just startups.
One of Brad’s key points is that for a company to effectively hire people, it must first define its values (how employees/customers are treated; communication preferences; overall attitudes). Once the values are defined, they will drive a company’s culture. Once your values and culture have been defined, then you can evaluate whether a potential hire will fit both your value and cultural ideals.
Your people are your company. Talent is only one component of the equation. Education is only one component (heck, even Google stopped asking their famous brain teasers. Assuming you find the individuals that have your desired combination of intelligence and experience, you also want to do your best to make sure they have the same values as your company (examples: do they treat everyone with respect? Will they go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure a client is satisfied?). Are they a good cultural fit?
Tony Hsieh provided a good answer to how to evaluate cultural fit in a recent Wall Street Journal post titled “Developing and Maintaining a Company’s Culture”. Tony is the CEO of Zappos and almost universally cited whenever a story on modern day corporate culture is produced.
When asked about how he evaluated potential employees in the early days of Zappos, his process was simple: “Is this someone I would choose to hang out with or grab a drink with even if we weren’t in business together? If the answer was no, then we wouldn’t hire that person.” He goes on to acknowledge that as a company grows, that approach does not scale with it. Zappos subsequently went on to formally define their values and culture and they now use that list to evaluate potential hires.
Values and culture, by definition, are intangible qualities and intangible qualities are often difficult to define. But defining them is worth the effort. It will help you identify whether potential new employees will be a good-fit for your company and having quality people is what will drive your company forward.