Making a Positive Work Environment Your Corporate Culture

Your top job candidate meets all of the qualifications you’ve listed in the job posting, and then some. But will she be a good fit in your corporate culture?

That question is as important as any you might have asked to gauge skills, aptitude and experience. And it’s going to be the most difficult one to answer. More than six in 10 human resources managers surveyed by OfficeTeam said they had misjudged a candidate’s fit with their company’s work environment. In the same survey, two-thirds said their company had lost an employee because he or she was not suited for the work environment.

Turnover is nothing any employer can afford. Neither is a decline in staff morale, collaboration and productivity. Whether the new hire is a toxic employee or simply a poor fit for the position and the team, the cost of a bad hire can be surprisingly high.

It doesn’t have to be a crapshoot. You can take steps to ensure your preferred candidate and your organization’s corporate culture are an ideal match. Here are our recommendations:

The job description

Begin by describing your corporate culture in the job description.

Not sure what to say? First, recognize that, as you begin the hiring process, you’re merging onto a two-way street. Yes, you want employees who will excel at their work and play well with others. But you also want to promote a corporate culture that will appeal to first-rate talent.

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  • If you think sharing your organization’s mission and values is little more than pro forma, then think again. For the newest cohort to join the workforce, Generation Z, this kind of detail can be critical information. “Making a difference or having a positive impact on society,” a majority of Gen Zers told Robert Half researchers, was one of their top three priorities when seeking a full-time position. If your organization has a formal CSR policy, consider giving a brief summary and link to it; otherwise, a short declaration about ethical standards and corporate citizenship will still reassure, if not excite, many job applicants.
  • Perks and benefits also say a great deal about an organization’s corporate culture. Sure, most job seekers want to know about eligible CTO and health care coverage as much as they do the position’s salary range. But think beyond the base package you’re offering. It’s fine to mention the ping-pong table in the conference room and the organization’s casual dress code. But what you say about work-life balance and professional development tells job seekers more about how the organization values its employees. Assure job seekers that “corporate culture” is not synonymous with “meat grinder,” and that your organization appreciates — and rewards — employee dedication and hard work.
  • Now, state your wants. Consider the qualities you most value in your top-performing employees. Different roles will require different attributes, of course. But if yours is a high-performing, deadline-driven office, best to say you’re looking for someone who’s comfortable in a fast-paced workplace environment. If your organization handles highly sensitive information, emphasize discretion and confidentiality. Be honest about both the job’s requirements and the workplace environment. Candidates should know what’s required to be successful in the position, and how their performance would be evaluated. Give job seekers the opportunity to decide whether this is a corporate culture they would thrive in.

The interview

You’ve evaluated cover letters and resumes, and put aside any with obvious red flags. You’ve checked out the LinkedIn profiles of the most highly qualified candidates, and you’ve identified who you’d like to call in for interviews. Now, consider the interview questions you’ll ask to determine whether the applicant’s knowledge and skill level are as impressive as his paperwork suggests, and how successful he would be in your corporate culture.

Always research salaries in your market for the position you’re staffing. You want to meet, if not beat, market rates


  • HR professionals typically recommend asking open-ended and hypothetical questions during a job interview. The candidate’s answers can tell you how he handled challenging assignments in the past, and how he might resolve similar situations in your office. They can also give insight into the candidate’s work ethic, and whether it’s in sync with your corporate culture. Would the candidate handle an office emergency as a proactive, problem-solving employee, or is this someone who waits for direction? Do the candidate’s answers suggest he’s someone who’d achieve goals in a collaborative manner, or is he the type who’d break some china to get things done? Consider the qualifications required to succeed in the job as well as in the work environment. 
  • Closed-ended questions, too, can reveal a lot about whether the job candidate would be a good fit in your corporate culture. Assess a candidate’s tact and diplomacy when you ask why she left her last job, or whether there’s anything her current employer could do to want her to stay. A simple, straightforward question like, “What kind of work environment do you prefer working in?” can tell you whether the candidate would feel comfortable or stressed in your open, lively and very busy office. Even more direct: “What are your values?” will tell you whether the applicant’s principles align with those of your corporate culture.
  • When you interview the candidate, pay attention also to nonverbal cues. Did the candidate dress appropriately for the interview? Is he an active listener, or does he appear distracted or keep interrupting you? Does he avoid eye contact and shift uncomfortably when asked how his former coworkers would describe his workstyle? A word of caution here: You should assess the candidate’s demeanor as carefully as you do the answers to your questions. But reading body language is a difficult art, especially when meeting a complete stranger in a situation as stressful as a job interview. Do what you can to put the individual at ease, and take care not to dismiss nervousness as deal-breaking awkwardness.

References and team feedback

No matter how impressed you are, and no matter how pressed you are, always check a candidate’s professional references. This is your opportunity to gather testimony that will confirm your good impressions and settle any lingering doubts. It’s also your opportunity to determine whether the candidate would be successful in your work environment. But as with every other step in the hiring process, be prepared when checking references.

  • Questions about the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, collegiality and job attendance are important, of course. But try to go beyond the “what.” When asking about notable accomplishments, for example, ask “how” the candidate exceeded objectives and expectations, and imagine how similar situations might have played out in your organization. If you’re speaking with a former employer, be mindful that you might not share the same values and qualities, much less the same corporate culture, that the candidate’s reference highlights. Be prepared to dig a little to get the answers you need.
  • If you have the time, and the new position warrants it, seek feedback from the people who know your corporate culture best: Your own employees. Invite your top job candidate to lunch with staff members she’d work most closely with. Afterward, ask the candidate and your employees separately how they would imagine working with one another, and whether job and applicant seem like a good fit. Don’t be surprised if the job candidate comes back with questions of her own. An informal meeting with staff would give plenty of clues about your organization’s corporate culture, from talk about workflow to management-staff relations. That can be a positive. There shouldn’t be any doubt with either of you that this isn’t going to be an ideal match.  

Still unsure whether you’re making the right hire for your corporate culture? Reach out to Robert Half. Our hiring experts can help you determine your staffing needs and match you with the best available talent in your market.  

Call us at 1.877.626.4189