Powerful Insights and Wisdom from Top Middle-Market CEOs: Why Culture Fit is Key for Top CEOs

In Leadership Resources by Brandt A. HandleyLeave a Comment

On ROI’s Into the Corner Office podcast, we have interviewed over 200 leading middle-market CEOs from companies across industries, and the advice and wisdom they have shared with us is unparalleled. We are excited to share some of these insights with you in a new form!

Many of our guests have told me that while skills are important, the most important factor when making a new hire is culture fit. Why? Because it doesn’t matter if a person has the right set of skills if they don’t fit in with the culture of the company. “Company culture” can feel a little buzzword-y, but top CEOs know that the culture of the company is its heartbeat, its driving force, and what makes it stand out from the competition.

Hiring for Culture Over Skills

Most of our guests agree that while skills and resumes are important–especially for technical or niche roles–skills can be taught, while affinity and personality are intrinsic.

As Tim Kachuriak, Founder & CEO of NextAfter says, by the time he gets to interview a candidate, they’ve already been vetted for skills and have checked all the boxes. “What I want to see is [if the candidate is] excited about what we’re building. Do [they see themselves] being able to contribute to this thing that’s way bigger than any one of us? That’s why I look for that affinity for the mission.”

For Dave Powers, CEO of Deckers, culture fit is important on a functional level as well. “Command and control leadership doesn’t necessarily work at Deckers. We’re a matrix organization, we [have] a complex business. [Team members] have to be able to manage from afar, influence from afar, work across the matrix, collaborate with teammates to get things done, and be a team player and that’s so that we’re really, really careful about hiring people that fit that model in that philosophy”

Victor Ho, founder & CEO of Fivestars, has a similar philosophy: “it really just comes down to our values of humility, authenticity, warrior, spirit, and joy. We really strive to be a place where the values are real and deeply integrated versus just being lip service or conceptual. [At Fivestars], someone can’t just get away with being a really strong performer. They really need to behave in a way that is humble and authentic and so forth.”

Interviewing For Culture Fit

So how does one get at that concept of culture in an interview? Tim and Dave both agree that asking questions less about the job skills and more about the interviewee is key.

Dave says he really tries “to dig into what [a candidate’s] personal interests are, what motivates them as a person. [I ask] more probing questions versus validating skills and try to get a sense of who they are as a person. Core experiences are relevant and will take [Deckers] to another level.” That is also evident in how a candidate presents him or herself during the interview. “Don’t be professional, be authentic,” says Victor. “Just bring yourself. [I want] someone who has a warrior spirit, is willing, striving to be the best at what they do, at whatever their function, who is willing to fight for the battles that really matter at a company.”

That authenticity is something that Tim values, too. “I usually start [an interview] by saying ‘I want to hear your story. Tell me about you. I want to understand how you got to this specific place,’ and just hear [the candidate] share the journey that God has taken them through.”

Interviewing for culture not only means the whole team is on the same page but also increases the chance that new team members will fit in seamlessly without division or drama to keep the company moving forward.

Do you struggle with hiring for culture fit, or is your company hiring for a major role and you would like to ensure that a new leader meshes with the current culture? ROI can help. Learn more here: www.Go4ROI.com

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