Employee Engagement

How Recruiting Can Influence Your Company Culture

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When Greenhouse was just starting out, we were all sitting in a small room together and our company culture seemed to grow organically and then spread by osmosis.

But as we grew, spreading over two offices on opposite coasts and a few other remote employees, we reached the point where not everyone knew each other and realized that we had to explicitly articulate what we wanted our culture to be.

So, we did what a lot of companies do. We wrote down what we wanted our company’s culture to be about and ended up with a list of six values. But then we were left wondering: How could we make those values actionable in our company and not just a poster on the wall showing some generic-sounding words?

What we found was that recruiting was a big leverage point—but not just in the way we expected. Sure, the values we came up with are a useful filter in figuring out who to hire. But, just as importantly, we found that the recruiting process was the best place to tell the story of these values internally to our existing employees.

As so many employees are involved in interviewing and providing input on hiring decisions, they are getting to see how seriously we take these values and actually make decisions based on them. In a lot of ways, the values aren’t really real until you use them to make a critical decision. Nowhere in our org does that happen as frequently and involving as many employees as in the recruiting process.

I’ll point out a few of the ways this plays out here in our recruiting process at Greenhouse—and what that means for other companies that would like to weave their cultural values into their interviews.

Designing the interview process

Enlist cross-departmental teams to conduct culture fit interviews

As you put together your roster of interviewers, I’d strongly suggest creating a cross-departmental team to conduct culture fit interviews. Not only does this give candidates a better sense of the company on the whole, but it also helps eliminate department-specific silos. For example, we don’t want the engineering department to feel distinct from the customer success department—we should have a company culture that’s consistent across all teams.

Add your values to every job’s scorecard

We use scorecards to show interviewers what the focus of their specific interview should be and which attributes they should be assessing candidates on. In our case, our cultural values are: authentic, effective, customer-focused, inclusive and open-minded, collaborative, and ambitious. Each interviewer will receive a unique scorecard with the relevant attributes highlighted, including these culture attributes, so they know exactly what to focus on. By making sure we cover our cultural values over multiple interviews, we show both prospective and current employees how serious we are about nurturing a vibrant culture.

Prepare interviewers with how to assess them

Adding your cultural values to your scorecards is the first step, but it’s also important to help interviewers understand how to assess candidates on those qualities. There aren’t necessarily right and wrong answers to culture questions. Since they tend to be behavioral questions, phrased as “Tell me about a time when you…” they’re not as easy to assess as technical skills or relevant experience. At Greenhouse, we provide “culture add” training so that there’s a shared understanding of what it means to demonstrate our cultural values. This also helps ensure that interviewers don’t think they’re being asked to rate candidates against superficial (and biased) criteria like whether they like the same TV shows or would enjoy grabbing a beer together. It also serves as a great feedback loop for the recruiting team, so that they learn which questions reveal the most insightful information about candidates when they’re used in an interview, and which are missing the mark in assessing an attribute.

Using cultural values to make hiring decisions

When you hold the round-up huddle to make a hiring decision, this is the moment where the rubber hits the road. If you’re a leader, it’s up to you to set the tone. By taking the cultural values seriously and showing that they truly matter, you are sending a signal to your whole team. By ignoring them or making it okay for them to not be evaluated, you’re sending the exact wrong message. Some of the hardest, and best decisions we’ve made as a company are to not hire technically proficient people who didn’t uphold our cultural values.

Putting it all together

So what’s next? If you think that you’d like to add a similar step to your hiring process, get key stakeholders at your organization together and decide on which attributes matter most to you. Once you have that list, add those values to every scorecard. Create a standard “company values” or “culture add” interview.

And once you’ve conducted all the interviews and you’re doing the round-up meeting, make sure that the values are incorporated into the conversation. Remember, the assessment should be focused on values and whether a candidate demonstrated them or not rather than whether interviewers “liked” the candidate or shared common interests with them.

You may be surprised by what happens next! We’ve heard some really interesting observations from many of our biggest customers. They have remarked that using this type of structured culture interview has had a much bigger effect internally than they expected; it’s become one of their most powerful tools in creating a consistent company culture across offices and even countries.

Incorporating your cultural values into your interviews sends a clear signal to your employees and candidates that these beliefs really matter to you—and empowers them to make decisions accordingly.

Interested in trying out scorecards in your hiring process? Here’s a free interactive scorecard template you can use.


About the Author:

Jon Stross is President and Co-Founder of Greenhouse. At Greenhouse, Jon drives the product strategy and works closely with customers and partners to build a platform that improves recruiting performance. Before founding Greenhouse, Jon served as the GM for BabyCenter.com and was responsible for the global rollout of the business.

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