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Why do some candidates look so great on paper but bomb when they are actually placed in a position? Many times it comes down to that elusive buzz phrase: “cultural fit.”

Cultural fit means different things to different companies, but it is generally the shared values and principles that form the organization’s identity and push it in a certain direction. While cultural fit is an intangible, not to mention hard to define, attribute, it is one of the most important. In fact, according to a recentHuman Resources Executive Online article, poor cultural fit is the number one reason employees don’t work out.

It’s so important, in fact, that Grand Circle Corporation Chairman, Alan Lewis, recently wrote an article titled “How My Company Hires for Culture First, Skills Second” that ran on the Harvard Business Review. According to Lewis, ensuring that a potential employee meshes with the company’s core values ismore important than making sure they have the right skills because most skills can be taught where values cannot. By focusing on the cultural fit, Grand Circle Corporation has been able to secure a 43 percent retention rate.

But it goes beyond asking the right questions.  Grand Circle Corporation candidates have to show that they fit in by acting out various scenarios, role-playing, and performing exercises that illustrate their leadership and teamwork abilities, their ability to perform in unusual situations, and their knowledge of the company.

We think that evaluating cultural fit is a great idea.  To take it a step (or two) further, we suggest that companies evaluate the candidates doing the the actual job for which they are being hired. How? By bringing them on in acontract-to-direct arrangement. In this scenario, you can place the candidate with your client on a contract basis.  While on contract, the company can evaluate the candidate to determine not only if they have the right skills for the job, but also if they are the right cultural fit. If they meet both criteria, the company can extend a direct offer, which can also result in a conversion feefor you. If they find that the candidate is not quite right for their organization, they can simply end the contract and try someone else.

Anyone can look good on paper, but it usually takes more than an interview to tell if they are just as good in action.  Allowing clients to “try before they buy”can help ensure that the person they are hiring meets their expectations and is the best fit for their organization.

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