Cultural Fit Is Critical For Tech Candidates – Here’s How To Assess It


September 26, 2023


180 Engineering

When hiring tech talent, many companies focus on technical skills and expertise. Wanting to hire the best and brightest, their hiring managers might focus on degrees from prestigious schools or on the results of technical assessments. In addition to clearly demonstrating a candidate’s aptitude for the work, technical skill is measurable and provides a relatively easy way to compare candidates.

However, as companies struggle to recruit and retain top talent from tech’s very small candidate pool, they are increasingly recognizing the importance of cultural fit.

A company’s culture, of course, defines and reflects its values, work ethic, and communication style. It also impacts the way that employees interact with each other, with management, and with external stakeholders, including vendors and clients. A good match between company culture and a candidate’s own values and beliefs is critical to that candidate’s integration into the workplace, their success, and their commitment to the company. A poor match will likely be detrimental to both the company and the candidate, negatively affecting team dynamics, productivity, and retention. In fact, it’s been reported that when new hires fail, it’s due to poor cultural fit 89% of the time.

This is not to say that cultural fit is more important than technical fit. Both need to be considered when hiring new tech talent. A candidate who has technical expertise but is a poor cultural fit can have difficulty adapting to the workplace and can cause disruptions and hinder productivity. Of course, a candidate who is a good cultural fit but lacks the necessary technical skills won’t be able to perform their duties.

While both technical fit and cultural fit should be assessed when hiring new talent, companies may have difficulty measuring cultural fit.

What Is Cultural Fit?

Cultural fit describes the way that an employee fits with, or matches, a company’s overarching culture.

A piece at Indeed defines company culture as, “A company’s beliefs, behaviours, ethics, vision and work environment. It determines how employees and management interact in the workplace. Every company has a different culture, as traditions, company size, industry, products, international trade and personal beliefs can influence it.”

Not all companies have a clearly defined corporate culture. Nonetheless, company culture is apparent in the way that employees are treated, communications are handled, and business is conducted, as well as things like dress code, hours of business, and office setup. One excellent piece suggests thinking of company culture as the personality of the business.

Finding candidates who are aligned with your company culture is critical to both the success of the candidates themselves and the contributions they will make toward the success of your company. Good cultural fit has several benefits for businesses, including:

  • Higher retention rates;
  • Better job performance and productivity;
  • More job satisfaction;
  • Higher employee morale; and
  • Increased commitment to the success of your business.

While poor cultural fit can have a negative impact on those same points listed above, it can cause a much more profound problem. As the piece in Indeed points out:

poor cultural fit can tarnish a company’s reputation, both internally and externally. Employees who are unhappy with the work environment may share their dissatisfaction with others, potentially discouraging future candidates from joining the company. This negative perception can also affect customer relations and partnerships, ultimately hindering the company’s success.

Additionally, because company culture determines the way that employees work, communicate, and collaborate, it profoundly affects the ways that teams interact.  And, as pointed out in a terrific piece, tech businesses are moving increasingly towards teamwork: “As solutions become more sophisticated, teams are growing and popular methodologies like agile simply rely upon people to get along to make it all work.”

It’s important to keep in mind that finding candidates who are a good cultural fit doesn’t mean that everyone has to be identical. Indeed, great collaborative efforts often happen when people are able to bring diverse ideas and perspectives to the table. It is possible for the same culture to resonate with a very diverse group of people.

Soft Skills And Cultural Fit

Soft skills are difficult to define but are perhaps best described as a set of personality traits that determine how we navigate the world around us. They are often considered people skills. Soft skills play a significant role in cultural fit because they affect how people approach their work and how they interact with each other.

In order to determine the potential cultural fit of a candidate, employers should consider which of the following soft skills are most important to the success of their company.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is crucial for fitting into any culture. Soft skills like active listening, clear articulation, and empathy enable employees to understand and share ideas, instructions, and feedback according to established cultural norms.

Teamwork And Collaboration

Soft skills related to teamwork, such as cooperation, conflict resolution, and the ability to work well with diverse groups, are essential for successful interpersonal interaction and collaboration.

Adaptability And Flexibility

A culturally fit employee should be adaptable and open to change. Soft skills like adaptability, resilience, and a growth mindset help employees embrace new ideas and practices, which are often integral to a company’s culture.


Effective soft skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making are valuable when approaching everyday duties as well as navigating interpersonal relationships.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is critical to well-developed soft skills. It’s important for understanding and appropriately reacting to emotions, whether your own or others’, and is crucial for building positive relationships and avoiding conflicts.

Leadership Skills

Leadership is not solely about exercising authority. Leadership also involves influencing, motivating, and inspiring others, including team members and external stakeholders.

Time Management And Organization

Being able to manage time, set priorities, and stay organized is critical for successfully completing daily tasks and contributing to the company’s productivity and overall success.

Customer Service And Client Relations

Many tech-based businesses create or maintain solutions for other businesses and/or for individuals. Because their work can be focused on customer service, some tech workers require strong people skills like empathy and patience particularly when dealing with clients or external stakeholders.

Conflict Resolution And Negotiation

Conflict resolution and negotiation are critical life skills, helping people navigate differences and maintain a peaceful, respectful workplace.

It’s clear that soft skills play a significant role in determining an individual’s cultural fit within an organization. When a candidate has the soft skills that are highly valued in your workplace, they build strong relationships with their team members and contribute to the overall success of your business.

How To Assess Cultural Fit

While the vast majority of hiring managers understand the importance of cultural fit, only a small minority (32% to be exact) actually attempt to measure it during the hiring process. That’s likely because it’s difficult to define and even more difficult to assess.

However, given its importance in the success of your employees and your company as a whole, it’s well worth your time to build your own in-house assessment strategy for cultural fit. To do so, consider the following steps:

Define Your Company Culture

If you don’t already have your company clearly stated in writing, it’s necessary to start here. You won’t be able to assess a candidate’s fit if you don’t have guideposts to judge that fit on. If you’re unsure of how to distill your company culture into a statement, there are excellent guides online.

Develop A Cultural Fit Framework

Once you know the components of your company culture, you will be able to create a framework or set of criteria to help you find the best cultural fit for your company. This framework will likely include several of the soft skills listed above.

Ask Questions Related To Cultural Fit In Interviews

Once you have a cultural fit framework, and you know which soft skills are most important for the candidate to bring to their new role, you will be able to determine the best questions to ask in the interview process. For example, if teamwork and collaboration are critical to the role, you might have a question like, “Tell us about a time when you collaborated with a team member and how that collaboration contributed to the success of the company you were working for.”

Use Behavioral Interviewing Techniques

Behavioral interviews pose questions about a candidate’s past work experience, asking for specific examples of how they handled certain situations. The questions should be developed around the soft skills that are critical for the candidate to achieve a good cultural fit with your company. Their answers should draw on past work, educational, or life experience, and are therefore verifiable through reference checks. Behavioral interviews are extremely effective and are particularly helpful in determining a candidate’s behavior and actions, as they relate to your company culture and also their soft skills.

Invite Team Members To The Interviews

Good cultural fit is closely interrelated with how well employees work together, communicate, and collaborate on projects. By inviting current members of your staff, who will work closely with your new team member, to the interview you will be able to see how everyone interacts with each other. You will also be able to ask for their insights regarding the candidate, including their take on the candidate’s soft skills and potential fit into your company culture.

Encourage Questions And Self-Assessment

Cultural fit isn’t just important to you as an employer. It’s also important to potential candidates. No one wants to take a job in a company where they will feel out of place and undervalued.

Encourage candidates to ask questions about your organization’s culture during the interview process. Take them on a tour of the worksite, so that they can see how the physical space is set up and how your teams handle work and collaboration. If possible, set up a more casual, social meeting in addition to the interview, such as a team lunch or coffee break. All of these things can provide insight into their soft skills and alignment with your culture.

Cultural Fit Assessments

If you’re struggling to develop a framework for determining cultural fit, or if you’re currently hiring and time is short, consider using a cultural fit assessment tool. These are often standardized questionnaires that gather data around soft skills, but some companies may be able to tailor assessments to your needs.

Assessing cultural fit is not a quick and easy feat. However, because cultural fit is so critical to the success of your employees and your business as a whole, it is well worth every effort you spend developing an assessment framework and applying that during the interview process.