How to Communicate Your Company Values During the Hiring Experience

Time to Read: 8.1 minutes

Updated: February 9, 2023

Employees in the modern workforce want a reliable paycheck and certain perks. Some things don’t change. However, they also want to be part of a company culture that resonates with their own beliefs and aspirations. They’re looking for a place where dedicating 40 or more hours a week means something.

Finding employees with the right cultural fit is not just good for the workforce, but for organizations, too.

A report from Totaljobs recently revealed that 67 percent of employers regard culture fit as “very important” when hiring new team members, and only 1 percent said it was not an important consideration.

Matthew Harradine, director at Totaljobs, says company culture is important at all stages of the recruitment process because an appealing company culture helps attract and retain better employees.

“Much like reputation, company culture takes a long time to build but can be broken in an instant,” he says. “It’s important, therefore, to not rock the boat with new hires — they must fit in with the company culture you’ve created.”

Strong Culture Can Keep Companies Healthy

Harradine is in the majority, certainly, and his views are backed up by another successful business owner. Arianna Huffington says culture is a company’s immune system, upon which its health depends. Keep the culture strong, and the company will stay healthy.

A company with a strong immune system will thrive, but what about those that hire candidates who don’t fit? Katie Bouton, founder and president of Koya Leadership Partners, says the answer is usually employee turnover, which is estimated to cost an organization as much as 60 percent of the replaced person’s annual salary.

This means finding the right candidates saves a lot of hassle and money. However, before hiring managers are able to select the most suitable hires, an organization needs to define what its culture is, and then find ways to communicate this to candidates during the recruitment process.

If your company values entrepreneurial spirit, for example, candidates should be interviewed about proven examples that show evidence of this in their work histories.

Hiring Managers Need to Clearly Communicate Company Culture

Swati Srivastava, writing at the eSill blog, stresses the importance of having hiring managers who can clearly communicate the cultural elements of their organization. Whether they’re intangible or tangible, these values need to be clearly communicated.

Not only is it better for an organization to employ candidates with shared values, goals and aspirations, but it also saves money in the long-term. It’s not hard to see how longevity of employees is tied to how they fit into a company. Letting go of bad fits means a whole new recruitment drive, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Many commentators argue that cultural fit is as important as candidates having the right skills. One such proponent of this idea is Holly Watson at Webrecruit, who says that having the top skills and experience are not enough. Culture fit is vital. Communicating this through clear channels and a unified message will help to ensure the right candidate is hired.

Communication needs to start as early as the job posting. Watson suggests including information about team size and office layout, but also the kind of company it is. Don’t go for cliched expressions such as “fast-paced” or “innovative.” Be subtle but clear. Language can often reflect company ethos, she says, so don’t be afraid to be colloquial, for example, if that is part of company style.

Other things Watson suggests:

  • Communicate details of what makes the organization unique.
  • Talk about values.
  • Show candidates where they can go in the future.

Moving from the job ad to the interview is the next step in open communication with candidates.

Culture is the DNA of a Company’s Workforce

The interview should be conversational rather than confined to a rigid format. Xuan Minh Hoang, at the Undercover Recruiter, urges interviewers to ask open-ended questions about candidates’ hobbies, ideal work environments, how they have dealt with mistakes, what inspires them and how they define success. These answers will reveal far more about the kind of people and workers they are.

“Company culture is the DNA of your workforce,” Hoang writes, emphasizing that culture should comprise the goals, vision and values of every employee. This sentiment, should a company hold it dear, can be expressed in the interview itself — and doing so is as simple as having more than one interviewer in the room.

Not only will an additional perspective give greater insight into a candidate, but it also will reinforce a positive culture of collaborative assessment. Hoang also suggests taking candidates around the office to see where they will be working and who their colleagues are. Let them experience what working at the organization will be like.

While the interview questions should be open-ended and stimulate conversation, they should also be rigorous, Successful Culture Founder and CEO Marissa Levin writes.

The Right Interview Questions Lead to Insight into Candidates’ Culture Fit

This is essential to identify candidates who not only appear to be a good fit for the company, but will likely stick around for the long term. Questions should be directed to find out as much as possible about the culture at the candidate’s current or former company, why they like it or don’t, what they would change, what a positive culture means to them, whom they regard as mentors, and how they wish to develop in their careers.

While no candidate honestly enjoys a grilling during an interview, they do value open, direct and clear communication. A survey from 15Five, found that 81 percent of employees prefer a company that values open communication, even over perks such as free food and gym memberships.

This, according to Tim Cannon at FastCompany, is good news because communicating doesn’t cost a thing. Done correctly, the way a company communicates also reveals the prevailing culture.

This could be as simple as choosing to ditch emails during the recruitment phase for more modern, informal and immediate means such as texts or social media messages. Of course, you could always pick up the phone: 77 percent of professionals prefer receiving good news this way.

OK, so employers and employees want a good cultural fit, and in order to achieve this both parties need to communicate openly and honestly. But it’s not that simple. Companies, like the people working in them, change. The modern workforce also includes remote workers, contractors and consultants.

Robert Glazer, founder and managing director at Acceleration Partners, writes that cultural fit needs to be shared by all these various types of employees. If they fail to adhere to the cultural values, they are not going to drive the sense of cohesion needed at a company.

This sense is exacerbated as organizations grow and evolve. Team members that fit well with a company early at its foundational stages may not grow with it. Culture is not a concrete concept where “round pegs go in round holes and, once they’ve found the right spot, stay there,” Glazer says. Instead, a good fit needs to put the right person in the right role at the right time. If these three factors are misaligned, leaders will need to straighten them out.

Culture Fit Does Not Mean Lack of Diversity

Another important consideration is that cultural fit should not get in the way of inclusivity. We recently wrote about how a diverse workforce is good for employee morale, motivation, innovation and the bottom line.

Sharon Florentine at CIO tackles this important issue. She argues that an emphasis on culture fit may lead to hiring managers, recruiters and HR professionals appointing candidates who reflect their own culture, especially if those gatekeepers to employment are homogeneous. “They may also assume that diversity and inclusion are problems that can be fixed quickly and simply,” she writes.

The solution to the problem is to have recruiters, hiring managers and HR professionals represent diverse groups of people as well as diversity of thought. They should treat culture fit as a distinct set of values that the company holds dear.

In a HuffPost interview with Talent Sonar’s Laura Mather, Harvard professor and behavioral economist Iris Bohnet argues that finding the right fit is often difficult because terms such as culture and inclusion are “fuzzy and diffuse” to begin with.

To overcome these non-descript concepts, Bohnet urges companies to test their cultures for health and inclusivity. They can do this by checking processes (fair treatment), outcomes (pay, diversity metrics), behavior (daily experiences at work), power (having a voice) and belonging (bringing one’s whole self to work).

While it is important to define and communicate culture throughout the hiring process, we have also seen how it is not a static, tangible or even homogeneous notion. Culture needs to be inclusive and diverse while also being consistent. It’s more about core values than dress codes and ping pong tables.

The good news is that if organizations are struggling with their cultures, there is plenty they can do about it. Suzy Jackson, at BQ Live, interviewed several employers about how to improve and change company culture. Their top tips were as follows:

  • Encourage a positive team atmosphere.
  • Recognize and reward great work.
  • Encourage strong relationships.
  • Improve communication.
  • Act as a role model to employees.

Having a happy, diverse and productive workforce that adheres to the same core values is what makes a company culture strong. It is important that new hires and candidates think about and identify what it is they value. Likewise, it is important that hiring managers communicate what the company holds dear. Ensuring these conditions are always met will help reduce attrition, promote longevity and, ultimately, be good for business.

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Shanil Kaderali

Shanil Kaderali is a strategic talent acquisition leader with global experience. He's managed and led recruitment functions at companies like Cisco Systems, Symantec, WellPoint, as well as having worked for several Baker's Dozen RPO winners.

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