How important is company culture to recruiters? I’m not talking about so called “discrimination masquerading as cultural fit”. If you’re looking to read up on that check out this post from back in April.

My question is simply this – should recruiters screen candidates for culture fit with our clients?

Like so many things in recruiting – “it depends”. For the most part, I say YES. It’s not the only factor, maybe not even the most important factor, but certainly too important to be ignored. Consider this –

Many years ago I was a third party recruiter working in the homebuilding industry. I recruited ANYTHING and EVERYTHING for my clients, but my bread and butter was mostly the field guys – warranty representatives, superintendents, project managers. It was not unusual for me to send the same candidate to a couple of different builders if they were interested.

One particular young lady was an experienced Customer Service Manager on the warranty side. I set up interviews for her with two different clients. Builder A was a very friendly, warm, almost goofy place (their mascot was rubber chicken or something). Builder B was a very “corporate”, buttoned up organization. Suits and ties all the way.

My candidate interviewed with Builder A first. She stopped by my office on her way home from the interview. When she walked in I could tell she was, quite literally, shaken up. The interview had been a complete disaster. Everyone looked like slobs, there was a basketball game happening in the parking lot when she arrived, and there were all these stupid rubber chickens everywhere. She asked “what the hell were you thinking sending me there??” I had a hard time convincing her to go to Builder B, since if I worked with Builder A I must be crazy too.

Extreme example? Perhaps. But even my client at Builder A agreed that I probably should do a better job of probing for culture fit. I’m even more convinced now as a corporate recruiter. I have several examples of candidates who weren't a fit for a particular department or manager only to be hired on another team where they’re now killing it. Essentially the same job function, but the team dynamic is a very different.

There are so many questions I should have asked all those years ago. How did she feel about weekly potlucks? Would she find impromptu parking lot basketball distracting? Did she have phobia of rubber chickens? You bet I cover all those things now. Oh there is kool-aid, Mr. Candidate. You will be asked to sip it. And by the way, the cool kids bring their own ping pong paddles.

For me - being in the building, getting to know each manager well and even sitting in on their staff meetings has made me a more effective recruiter. I know not every recruiter can do this. I have clients in other parts of the country that I haven’t (yet) met, and do the best I can with the information I get by phone and email. The job type can make a difference too – if you’re plugging in contract coders who are going to sit in a cube all day long and never talk to a single person, that’s a way different “culture fit” than the marketing guy who has to create content for 12 different business groups.

Culture matters. Don’t let a rubber chicken stand between you and a successful placement.

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Comment by Tiffany Branch on October 18, 2012 at 10:34am

As a corporate recruiter/generalist, and recruiting is a function of HR not a separate business unit. (That's another discussion in itself). When I have been in Generalist roles, I ALWAYS had responsibility for recruiting, so I can't say that all "HR folks" have no clue about recruiting.

Job descriptions are NOT going to necessarily have culture traits because they are supposed to detail the job itself. As we've discussed in other posts, we no longer write ad's for jobs. We just upload the compensation approved job descrption to job boards/ATS's. It's up to the interviewer(s) to know and identify the right culture fit.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on October 18, 2012 at 1:08pm

Tiffany I have no reason to think you are anything other than spectacular at your job. It could just be another symptom of the culture I currently work in - we have a very large recruiting team (2 req load carrying directors, 7 recruiters and 1 very stressed out coordinator) and we don't have time for anything BUT recruiting. Our directors report to the VP of HR, so while we're considered part of HR, the skills and requirements are COMPLETELY different. Our HR generalist would rather chew glass than do what we do. I don't think anyone on our HR team wants any part of the dirty work in recruiting! :)

Of course there's a whole 'nother debate on whether or not "real" recruiters even post jobs... I do (well my coordinator does), and I do hire actual active applicants, but I certainly don't think our job postings are going to win any prizes. I just don't have the time or inclination at this point to do much about it. That might change in the future, but for now I need to keep up with my current work.

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