Hiring Compatible Employees


How do you best hire compatible employees and avoid culture clash within any organization? Can you provide your thoughts on how best to approach this effort? Can you provide some thought processes you go through when assessing the landscape?

Answers from Linda Harrington:

There are several strategies you can employ to determine if potential employees are a good fit with a culture. I would start by contacting your human resources department. Hopefully they can be of assistance. They often times will help to facilitate the answers to your questions about what skills and attributes make for a great candidate for a specific position.


If you are looking for a more scientific methodology, I would recommend hiring a human resource or organizational effectiveness consultant. There are personality or psychological tests that can be performed on potential new hires that offer insights typically not captured in an interview or on an application. A simpler and less scientific strategy would be to Google or Bing “cultural fit interview questions” and identify questions you think may help in obtaining the information you need. Again, a human resource expert in your organization should be able to help you select, deploy and evaluate the best strategy.

Shared Governance

My personal preference as a leader is to create a shared governance culture. One strategy I employed in the past under that model was to ask members of the team to identify the top 5 key attributes a person needs to have to be successful on the team. For example, each unit/department created their own list as each has its own culture. Remember: The goal is always shared governance. The requirement was generally 5 or so key attributes needed to be a successful member of that team. The attributes include such  things like put customers first, willingness to take tough assignments, always on time, good sense of humor, able to stay late to get the job done, always leave a clean environment behind, and participate in decision making as well as support decisions a team makes. We talked about what it looks like when one has these attributes versus when one does not. For example, how a decision might vary if you put the customer first versus employees first versus organization first.  

I then helped them to take all of the ideas and condense them to common themes, the goals being a consensus by the team of key attributes new hires should have and a final usable list of these key attributes. Once the list was finalized, I asked the team to take time and individually reflect upon how well they fit those attributes. We then used the list when hiring.

When applicants were screened they were provided the list of key attributes as a method of setting expectations on what the team was looking for. Employees interviewing the applicants would ask questions to solicit examples of when the applicant exemplified those attributes. I would not say this is scientific but I am a firm believer in shared governance and the responsibilities of leaders in ensuring a positive culture.

Answers from Maria Arellano:

Workplace culture is unique in every organization and hiring candidates whose belief and behavior systems appear congruent with your organizational culture can be a significant challenge. As a nursing director, I worked hard to find the right employees for our organization and ensure that they made a smooth and successful transition onto our team.

Work with human resources

My first step was to work with our internal human resources department. Our human resource department was a great resource in helping us define our “organizational culture” and identify what employee characteristics/traits were important to our team and important to succeed at the given position. My second step was to leverage our current staff to help in the recruitment process. Your current employees can be your best recruitment resource. Many of them may know potential candidates from prior companies and already know their work ethic and style and would have a good idea whether they would fit or not.

Behavior-based Interviewing

Once our culture was defined, our strategy for developing interview questions was much easier. I highly recommend using behavior-based interviewing techniques to improve your chances of selecting high quality team members who are a good fit and will be with you for the long term. These questions, in contrast to theoretical interview questions, ask the candidates to explain what they have actually done in a particular situation rather than what they would do in the situation. There are many great resources on behavior-based interviewing techniques available on the web and in print.

Involve the team

Lastly, I strongly believe that your team should be involved in the hiring process. Once you have narrowed it down to 2-3 candidates, consider a team interview. Team involvement not only helps current team members feel like they are a part of the decision making, but I’ve experienced the added benefit of the current employees taking “ownership” of the hiring decision and work extra hard to make sure the new team member is warmly welcomed into workplace and successful in their transition.