Hiring For Cultural Fit

Why we all just need to be a little more human. By Ben Gateley, Co-Founder & COO.

We’ve all read the books: hire on cultural fit first and worry about skill later. The truth is it’s not always that easy and takes a good amount of consideration. Here’s how we’ve been thinking about it when it comes down to hiring talent for CharlieHR.

Why Hire Culture First?

It’s always dependent on the type of business you’re trying to build and I am by no means an expert. But for us the core consideration of hiring is being able to attract the kind of ambitious talent we want to work with day in day out. I also believe that the talent of today are looking for a different experience than the generations that came before us. Culture and environment carry more weight than money or titles these days.

We believe that a well-articulated culture can motivate above & beyond anything else. It’s the difference between staying behind to ship that final piece of code and clocking off at 6pm to hit the pub. A team that feels motivated by those around them is far more likely to take that extra step.

As a generation, we’ll be working for many many years to come. No retirement for us. I want to spend my days with people that I enjoy spending time with. People who help to make work and life less separate and more the same. For me, being able to enjoy the time I spend with those I work with is a huge motivator. It’s something I never take for granted and I believe a strong culture has the power to pull such a group together.

How Do You Test For It?

There are a couple of questions I try to answer when chatting to a candidate. It’s no science, so I know I often get it wrong and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so…

  1. Do they excite me?

Would I look forward to working with them everyday? Do I have that feeling in my gut when I meet them for the first time?

  1. Are they self-aware?

Do they know themselves? Asking about their weaknesses and failures is in my opinion the best way to test for this. No egos allowed!

  1. Do they fit our values?

For us, that means our PACT (Passion / Ambition / Curiosity / Togetherness). Deciding whether a candidate fits to our values is always a deal breaker.

How Does Culture Fit Into The Hiring Process?

For me: it has to come first. If you value cultural fit over everything else then you’ve got to position it at the start of the process. Don’t waste everyone’s time by going through all the stages of an interview just to fall at the final hurdle.

I try to prioritise culture at two key points…

  1. A quick phone call

I hate phone calls, but I think they help to weed out the candidates that are just not right. It’s not the tool for differentiating between a good and great candidate, but it’s a start. I like to keep them nice and short… 15 minutes max.

  1. Some face-to-face time

This is the only real way to tell if a candidate is the right cultural fit. Take the time to get to know them… and ask them about their life, not just their CV!

Do The Same Rules Apply To Everyone?

Yes. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to see the same characteristics in an engineer as a sales manager. To me this is most definitely the hardest part. Hiring on culture doesn’t mean you build a team of clones. It should help you build a diverse team with a set of values and attitudes, rather than a shared talent for beer pong.

It might be harder to determine if an engineer has good cultural fit. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply the same high standards. So take the time to really get to know each and every candidate, I’m often amazed and excited by what I find when I dig a little deeper.

When It Goes Wrong

When it goes wrong (and it will) the key is to act and act fast. A brilliant culture takes a long time to build up, but it can be torn down in a matter of weeks. If you feel there’s someone on the team that’s jeopardising it, don’t risk waiting to “see how they get on”. More often than not, changing an attitude is no easy feat and it might just be something you can’t handle alone.


When it isn’t being completely ignored, culture is something that can also be over-thought and forced in small businesses. I am sure that sometimes we’re guilty of doing just that. But the reality is it’s very, very simple. When was the last time you set up a four part scoring system to rate the “cultural fit” of your friends and family? Never (I hope!). I think the real skill when it comes to hiring for cultural fit is to just be a bit more human…

Neo Sepulveda

Neo Sepulveda

Software engineer at CharlieHR 💻. I like climbing things quite a bit 🐒.

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