How to determine the right cultural fit early to avoid hiring mistakes

Back to blog

The importance of ensuring the right cultural fit of any new hire cannot be overstated. This is particularly true when it comes to the competitive world of sales – after all, 84% of employees say they would consider moving to another employer with culture and values more closely aligned with their own. Whilst assessing and understanding a sales person’s skills and achievements is vitally important in finding out how good they are at their jobs, sales ability becomes irrelevant if someone doesn’t have the attitude and characteristics that match your company’s values. Hiring someone who isn’t aligned with your team culture could lead to poor performance and demotivation, potentially even harming your existing team – and your revenue. More than three-quarters of employers say positive cultural fit helps to improve staff retention, with 60% saying it improves productivity and commitment among staff.

With that in mind, a strong company culture will ultimately result in a better performing sales team. If you want to retain great sales people that fit in with your company culture, the following steps will help you select great candidates from the get-go.

Define your culture

Start by asking what success looks like at your company. While profit will ultimately be your end goal, what does a successful sales person, a successful quarter and a successful day in the job look like? A sales person’s idea of success and core values should align with those of your business in order to achieve strong enterprise alignment. Your company culture may not be decisively defined, but if you look around your business – and indeed your existing sales team – you’ll be able to get a feel for it. Does your business promote a pro-sales culture? Is the environment competitive but positive, where success is celebrated, and your team is engaged? Or perhaps your team culture encourages effort and drive as well as the bottom line results?

These are the types of messages you need to weave into the end-to-end recruitment process. Highlight your culture on your website career pages, showing examples of the type of environment you work in (including photos, videos and testimonials), in your job ad and during the interview process.

Current sales people can also be used to help you identify your culture – look at your sales stars and advocates and identify what makes them such great team members and sales people. Whether it’s an ingrained drive to excel, persistence or the ability to turn a negative into a positive, your team will exhibit traits that are critical to your culture.

Ask the right questions

It’s no secret that sales people can talk the talk. This can make it challenging to determine the best candidates at interview stage – with confidence and persuasion key attributes of any sales person, most candidates will be well prepared for the most common interview questions. Non-standard interview questions that make it a little more difficult to work out what you’re looking for can be one way of identifying the right people. For example, instead of asking, “How often do you try to close a deal?”, ask “What do you do during a meeting with a prospect?”.

Open-ended questions that delve into candidates’ processes and thought patterns can reveal what they’ll be like on the job. Ask for examples from previous roles and organisations, including highlights and challenges, and look for body language and enthusiasm – real passion can’t be faked. Questions regarding the type of team environment they like to work in, management style they respond best to and what makes them get up and go to work in the morning can all point toward whether they’ll be a good cultural fit. While someone driven purely by money and competition may not be the best fit for sales teams with loose KPIs and more team-focused goals, a sales person who loves working with others and seeing fellow team members achieve could be a great candidate. As 89% of new hire failures within the first 18 months of a job are due to poor cultural fit, it’s essential that you do as much as you can to question candidates on this before making the hiring decision.

Involve the rest of the team

Company culture is a crucial consideration for companies at all stages of their life cycle, not just when hiring new sales people. With 87% of organisations citing culture and engagement as one of their top challenges, it’s clear that you need to ensure all team members are aware of and engaged in your culture.

Start by getting sales members involved in your interview process. This could be treated as a development opportunity for sales people, while also giving candidates the opportunity to interact directly with their potential colleagues. In addition to inviting key sales staff into interview, consider taking promising candidates out to lunch with the team, on tours through the office or simply introduce them to existing sales people. Watch for how they interact, whether they look comfortable and if they engage in any ‘sales banter’ with team members. Candidates who try to build relationships, respond positively to their surroundings and are eager to absorb the company culture will likely be better team members than those who keep to themselves and seem standoffish.

Existing sales people can provide feedback on how they think the candidate will gel with the team and may provide insights that you could overlook – for example, an overly friendly and confident candidate may clash with an existing sales person, while a shy candidate who seems unsure of themselves may not do much to strengthen the current team. If team work, camaraderie and a friendly company culture are important to you and your team, this step can make all the difference in identifying the best hire.

Ask for help

Your existing sales people, fellow managers and HR team can all help to identify the sales candidates who will be the right cultural fit for your team. Recruitment experts can also help to not only identify and attract the top talent, but also those who will work best with your business. Contact us here to see how we can help, or click here to view more advice from our team of experts.

×