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Employee Development

How to infuse firm culture in recruitment to maximize talent

Natalie Runyon  Director, Enterprise Content

· 5 minute read

Natalie Runyon  Director, Enterprise Content

· 5 minute read

The main relationships between firm culture and recruiting are associated with employee attraction, selection and retention. Making culture part of the recruitment process also has direct and indirect bottom line benefits.

In fact, replacement of an employee due to separation can cost up to twice the individual’s salary to find and train a replacement, according to a LinkedIn report. When an organization has high turnover, it may be perceived that the firm is not an easy, productive, and enjoyable place to be employed. And because such an environment creates broken workplace relationships and discourages long and productive working relationships, employees may leave and hiring new ones may be more difficult.

Making culture part of your brand to attract talent

To attract the right talent, firm culture needs to be demonstrated and delivered — mainly through the brand image a company projects. Organizations that make their culture a key priority and actively market their culture to candidates can attract the prospective candidates who will thrive in the organization. To do this, organizations need to “integrate aspects of the culture into their core message,” according to Forbes.

Within the tax and accounting industry, for example, the tag line of Carr Riggs, & Ingram (CRI) explicitly states that it has national strength with southern roots. According to Sandi Guy, Partner of Human Capital, the firm has no intention of growing beyond the South, and certain candidates will be attracted to the CRI brand because of the firm’s “Southern-ness”

Infusing culture into talent selection preparation

Organizational culture also plays a critical role in determining which candidates to interview. A hiring manager wants to make sure the candidates the firm is interviewing embody the values of the organization and will be able to adhere to them through their behaviors. If a candidate’s values are not included as part of the selection process — or if candidates are only evaluated on technical skill or academic credentials — then it may be impossible to know if those candidates will be right for the firm in the long run.

Also, firm culture has to be arranged deliberately to fit the future strategy of the firm. If a firm hires for technical need only, many of those skills may be automated or performed by robots in the future, negating the value of the hire. For example, a firm could hire the most technically skilled candidate out of college, but as people skills become increasingly important for the future, those technical skills could lose their luster. In this case, the candidate who is not as technically strong but knows how to forge great relationships may be the better qualified person because of the business development and collaboration skills that will be available to the firm as the employee grows her skill set.

Embedding cultural assessment into interviewing

So how do you operationalize this cultural ideology? It starts at the very beginning with candidate interviews. The best assessment tool for culture and values is behavioral-based interviewing, says Claudio Diaz, Chief People Officer at accounting firm Briggs and Veselka.

“Behavioral-based interviewing (BBI) requires that a candidate give specific examples of when they’ve demonstrated a certain competency or value, not just their philosophical diatribes about what they believe about that value. BBI has been around for a long time, but many organizations won’t hardwire it into their interview protocols because of the additional effort required to factually evaluate a candidate’s likelihood of success. Organizations that use it are ensuring accountability and consistency by everyone in the interview process.”

How is BBI different? Instead of going with your “gut instinct” on a certain candidate (aka: implicit bias), BBI forces objectivity to avoid getting fooled by a candidate who was born with a silver spoon in their mouth. For example, one effective question to gauge a candidate’s grit is, “Tell me about a time when you started a project all on your own without being given permission, and it produced great value for the organization.” Another example to evaluate integrity using this technique is, “Tell me about a time when you had to make an unpopular decision or recommendation you knew would be disliked by your peers but was necessary for the good of the organization.”

Behavioral-based interviewing minimizes the risk of implicit bias in the selection process because you can more objectively assess someone on their prior demonstration of each competency, not just their opinion of it.

To underscore the point of embedding interview questions around your cultural values, norms and behaviors, accounting firm Friedman LLP hires candidates who epitomize the firm’s culture as long as they have the basic credentials. “For an entry-level person or someone with one or two years of experience, we’re really looking primarily for the cultural set,” says Lindsay Gaal, Chief HR Officer at Friedman. “As long as somebody is smart, you can teach them anything. But you can’t teach a positive attitude.”

Since optimism is a core value for the firm, it is crucial for every hire to demonstrate positivity. Indeed, Friedman has deliberately ingrained positivity into the design of its office space through open floor plans and bright colors. Moreover, the firm is planning to do the same for every office as its leases expire over the next few years.

Each candidate needs to be able to “create and experience the work environment of the firm” because “each employee and prospective candidate has a role in generating the environment that [they] want to be in,” Gaal states.

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