Do You Measure Culture Fit During Executive Recruitment?


We discuss the value of measuring culture fit exclusively in executive recruitment and the effectiveness of an algorithm to enable its measurement.

Finding the right talent for a leadership position can be more challenging than finding talent for other roles. A recent Mettl+Mercer surveyOpens a new window of 200+ organizations found that it takes most companies an average of 3.5 months (lead time) to complete the leadership hiring process! It’s no wonder then that 27% report long hiring lead times as a massive challenge, one that causes qualified candidates to back out.

Interestingly, the survey also found that companies that utilize scientifically validated talent assessment tools for executive recruitment are more likely to hire leaders who prove successful in their roles.

What is the value of measuring an individual’s culture fit before you hire them for a leadership role? We discuss the value of measuring culture fit exclusively in executive recruitment.

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Why Measuring Culture Fit in Executive Recruitment Demands Special Attention

For leadership roles, assessing culture fit transforms your quality of hire. Candidates in these roles often have prestigious employment history and may be alumni of renowned educational institutions and/or Fortune 500s. Culture fit, therefore, determines whether someone will prove to be the right strategic fit for your company.

ZRGOpens a new window Partners recently released an exclusive culture fit assessment tool for executive recruitment on its Zi platform. It is an algorithm that can help you decide whether a candidate will prove to be a cultural fit as a leader at your organization. Larry Hartmann, CEO at ZRGOpens a new window , speaking exclusively to Toolbox HR, said, “Rarely does someone not work out because of their work history or experience, as this is easy to assess, but culture fit is the holy grail in great hiring decisions,” agrees Hartmann.

Robin EricksonOpens a new window , Ph.D., principal researcher at The Conference BoardOpens a new window , is of a similar opinion. “Strategic recruiting practices can help drive organizational business outcomes. The strongest TA teams seek candidates who ‘fit’ with their organization’s culture and are viewed as having long-term potential with the company. The result is a stronger culture that is reinforced by each new hire.”

This is particularly essential in leadership positions, as that’s where culture is built and where it trickles down from.

Currently, companies mostly rely on one-on-one interviews and a recruiter’s intuition to get culture fit right. Mettl+Mercer’s survey found that 42% of organizations don’t have a framework in place using which they can structure their executive recruitment process. While interviews are important, they come with two inherent shortcomings:

  • Interviews don’t always capture the exact extent of hard skills and soft skills that a candidate brings to the table. You need a specialized assessment even for executive recruitment, quantifying the candidate’s talent fitment. (Fun fact: most companies use task-based exercises when hiring future leaders, along with face-to-face interviews and psychometric assessments.)
  • There’s always a risk that the interviewer’s personal bias will color their perception of culture fit. The interviewer would prioritize the elements of culture that they deem most important, and seek out those traits among candidates, leading to unconscious bias. And given that 16% of organizations are unaware of the kind of talent that they want to hire, the possibility of falling prey to bias is very high.

To counter this, Hartmann believes that an algorithmic approach to measuring culture fit for executive hiring would objectively quantify it so that there isn’t over-reliance on face-to-face interviews or one individual’s discretion.

Executive Culture Fit Measurement Must Be Bias-Free

Right now, there is a sizable gap between genders in leadership roles – indicating the prevalence of bias in executive recruitment.

At the entry level, the proportion of men and women in the workplace is largely equitable (52% vs. 48% as per LeanIn’s surveyOpens a new window of 68,500+ respondents). But this 4% gap gets progressively wider as we move up the ranks, which is why the C-suite comprises 79% male and only 21% female professionals.

In other words, companies are aware of the need for culture fit, but in a bid to achieve this manually, their hiring process may be biased and may get in the way of diversity. An algorithm to measure culture fit, then, would be expected to be unbiased and rate candidates on genderless factors objectively.

“You will never get completely away from intuition as a factor in hiring decisions, but this process helps to either confirm those opinions or make you think hard about their accuracy,” Hartmann, an executive search veteran himself, explained.

For example, the Zi platform leverages company data to assign every candidate a fitment score that’s a cumulative reflection of:

  • A candidate’s career history matched to the size and stage of challenge they would face in the new leadership role
  • PHD-validated assessment data that decodes fitment even further
  • A Culture Fit Score that’s determined via analysis of a company’s past interviews and collective wisdom

Does this invalidate a candidate’s resume? No, says Hartmann. “We extract factors from a candidate’s resume that are then matched against a client’s blueprint to begin the culture fit scoring process.”

Going by Mettl+Mercer’s finding that a 70% adoption rate for scientific assessment tools is directly correlated to the 90% leadership success rate in the media sector, deploying an algorithm to measure culture fit – among other recruitment technologies – may help recruiters hire executives who stick.

However, “Culture is often hard to define tangibly and each organization has a unique culture, encompassing its philosophy, mission, values, and behaviors,” says Erickson. So, if as part of a TA team you decide to use such a tool, first, with the help of the company leadership, define your culture at a granular level. What are the values you are seeking and what are the values you hope the potential leader to pass on through the organization?

And then evaluate the customization capabilities of the tool to ensure that it can be minutely customized to the requirements of your organization. “The more customization available for each organization,” adds Erickson, “the better the tool will be in assessing unique culture fit.”

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Reimagining Executive Recruitment Is More Important Now

“Now is the time for companies to embrace the science of how to make executive hiring decisions without total reliance on opinions of a team in traditional face-to-face interviewing,” says Hartmann.

The leaders you hire now – amid the global pandemic – will be responsible for steering the organization during and after the pandemic, navigating a dynamic global economy. When you consider that 86% of organizations anticipate a shortfall in leaders in the next three years, the relevance of next-gen executive recruitment platforms becomes clearer.

Founded in science and powered by the latest innovations, recruitment technologies directed toward executive recruitment could help optimize your leadership pipeline, maintaining business continuity and success. Would a tool to measure culture fit at this level prove useful? Let’s wait and watch.

Do you consider culture fit as an important metric during the executive recruitment process? Tell us on FacebookOpens a new window , LinkedInOpens a new window , or TwitterOpens a new window . We would love to hear from you!