DNA Match? Assessing Culture Fit

Posted by Tom Berger on May 17, 2019 11:54:58 AM

Historically, both a candidate and the hiring company spend a considerable amount of time during the candidate selection process assessing the fit between the candidate and the requirements of the job. Today, an emphasis is also placed on the cultural fit of both parties which is probably more important in gauging the long-term success of a candidate than their actual performance.

The cultural fit most often deals with issues and attitudes that are readily observable or become obvious during the interview process. The more exposure a candidate has to different individuals within an organization, the more likely cultural issues, both pro and con, will be uncovered by all involved parties. There is, however, another factor that should be considered by both parties. It is their respective “DNA.” In this context, DNA refers to the fundamental tendencies or inherent patterns that a company and the candidate follow. Some of these patterns can be conscious while others can be unconscious. Ensuring that there is a proper DNA match is critical for both parties.  During the interview process, all parties are “on their best behavior” and may, consciously or unconsciously, not show their true attitudes and feelings about certain issues.

A useful method of exploring DNA matches is to compare extremes to see how both the company and candidate are similar or dissimilar.  These comparisons are not judgmental; there is no right or wrong. Instead, they simply reveal tendencies, likes or dislikes or motivations of both the candidate and the company.   Examples include:

  • Business Risk Tolerance
  • Innovation Focus
  • Product or Service Offerings
  • Mature or Emerging Market Focus
  • Consumer or Business Focus
  • Individual or Group Accountability
  • Market Share Position
  • Commodity or System Sales
  • One-time Sales or Long-Term Customer Engagement
  • Flat or Hierarchical Structure
  • Short or Long Development Cycles
  • Formal or Casual Work Environment

Just like biological DNA, candidate and company DNA does not change – at least not over the short-term. It is not hard to characterize both a company’s and a candidate’s DNA. As previously stated, there is no right or wrong set of characteristics.  What IS wrong is thinking that the candidate can change the company, or the company can change the candidate. We often hear about a new senior executive, typically a CEO, being brought in to change the company. Sometimes it works (Lou Gerstner of IBM) but more often, it doesn’t. Understanding the DNA challenge during the interview stage is in everyone’s best interest.

Topics: Executive Recruiting, Executive Interviewing, Executive Interviews, Cultural Fit, Culture Fit Assessment