Sourcing candidates based on culture involves looking for candidate pools that share your company's values and cultural norm. This often means finding niches outside normal recruiting channels. For example, one West coast, high tech engineering firm has cultural characteristics similar to those traditionally associated with small-town Midwestern values. People in this company are very bright and do world-class work, but they tend to be relatively quiet and modest about their achievements.
A recruiter in this company finds that the most successful candidates tend to come from "engineering programs in universities that have a barn somewhere on campus." Rather than recruiting at the big name East and West coast technical institutes, the recruiter targets top-level engineering students from schools traditionally associated with agriculture. These students not only better fit the company's style, but many of them prefer it to the work environment found in the more glamorous engineering companies.
Identifying unique sources of talent requires thinking creatively about where you might find people who share your company's cultural values. An added advantage is that you may end up becoming an employer of choice among candidates from a talent pool your competitors may not even be considering.
Recruitment advertising refers to any efforts to promote your company as an employer of choice to potential candidates. This includes things such as sponsoring events attended by candidates, company Web page design, traditional recruitment advertising and orchestration of on-site visits by applicants. You want to call attention to things your company does that reflect positive aspects of its culture. For example, GE has been successful in making itself the focus of best practice reports that emphasize learning and development. GE's recruiters undoubtedly know that development opportunities are among the most important things college graduates want from their first employers.
Highlight anything about your organization that reflects specific cultural values. For instance, Starbucks employees are allowed a free pound of coffee each week. The free coffee isn't just a perk. It educates employees about coffee, and a commitment to producing the highest quality coffee is one of the company's core values. Enterprise Car Rental emphasizes advancement through the fact that nearly all of Enterprise's executives started out as entry-level employees.
Note that the goal of recruitment advertising is not simply to attract candidates based on your company's advantages, but also to give candidates a realistic cultural preview. The purpose of recruiting is to sell the job to the kinds of people who will flourish in your company. The best recruitment advertising attracts good candidates while simultaneously discouraging applicants who would not fit in with the company culture.
Selecting candidates based on cultural fit is perhaps the most complex — and potentially the most valuable — application of culture in recruiting. Culture-based selection measures can predict both retention and performance. Retention is predicted by finding candidates whose values, beliefs and preferences align with the company culture's dominant aspects. Performance is predicted by determining if candidates possess the talents and competencies needed to perform effectively in the company's work environment.
A simple way to select candidates based on culture is to immerse them in the culture during the selection process. For example, Microsoft's interview process includes grilling candidates with challenging technical questions. This practice not only assesses knowledge and problem-solving ability, but it also explores the ability to perform under pressure, a key skill needed to succeed in Microsoft's intense work environment.
Organizational culture and recruiting are highly complex and multifaceted topics. The articles in this series are intended to stimulate ideas regarding ways to more effectively leverage you company's culture as a competitive advantage. The successful use of culture for recruiting does not necessarily depend on what culture your company has, but whether or not you actively leverage it to your advantage.