From Job Description to Cultural Depiction… Posted at 0:00, Wed, 28 September 2016 in Industry Insights

The job description is the benchmarking document for both a recruiter and a client/hiring manager to assess against and hire the right candidate. It defines the prerequisites and nice-to-haves in a candidate for a role. It also helps the recruiter profile the archetypal candidate with the right skill set and qualifications.

It so often happens that after many long hours of hunting, speaking and attracting candidates, the recruiter finally feels good as the requirements of the job have been ticked by a candidate. We recruiters then enter into a dream world, telling ourselves “It is almost done, one more closure this quarter, yeah!”. But then, one call from the client makes us start all over again. Why? … because the client says “great candidate, but they don’t have the right culture fit. Keep looking”. So, what does that mean?

The culture of an organisation is made up of its core values, beliefs and attitudes and the behaviour of its people within this.

When the hiring manager says “not the right cultural fit” it doesn’t mean that the candidate presented badly, or should be blacklisted, but that the values, beliefs and attitude of the candidate are not aligned with the client’s company.


It typically takes a minimum of 2-3 hours for the recruiter to engage, discuss the role and evaluate a candidate. Then, in most cases, in less than an hour, the hiring manager can come to the conclusion of “thanks, but no thanks”, due to a lack of cultural fit.

To avoid redoing the whole exercise and spending (rather wasting!) time starting all over again, it is better to invest 15-20mins upfront to check the cultural fit of your candidate. Here are few questions, which, if asked by the recruiter, can help him/her make a well-informed call on the right fit.

What value(s) does the candidate relate with the most?
In what type of work environment and leadership style do they thrive?
What is the one thing the candidate would have changed in his current (or former) organisation in terms of improving the culture?
What is their management style?
What have previous 360 degree reviews or psychometric tests come back with?
Are they involved in every project or do they like delegating their work?

I’ve also included a couple of links below to other examples of creative questioning. Answers to these questions will give a recruiter an idea of the interpersonal side of a candidate and then they can match them with the cultural alignment the client is looking for.

The wonderful world of recruitment and corporate match-making is not an exact science and neither a recruiter nor a client can do a 100% test on cultural fit as it fluid and harder to gauge. As recruiters however, we can surely improve the quality of the candidates and reduce the chances of them being rejected by the client. This can be achieved through a combination of the gut feel and how a candidate presents in their interview, coupled with deeper rigour around the questioning of ‘cultural fit’.

Happy hunting!

Other creative questioning links
The Balance

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Veenu Anand has ten years of research experience in executive search industry. She has worked in India and Singapore.

Prior to joining MitchelLake, she worked for Egon Zehnder and Spencer Stuart in Singapore. In her previous roles, she was member of the CFO core team which was instrumental in developing CFO practice for SEA. She has also worked on various research projects across verticals and sectors ranging from telecom, industrial, financial services and life science across APAC.