Make sure that new hire will be a good fit

The applicant's work history and references seem in order, and that Ivy degree catches the eye. But how can you be sure — really, really sure — they'll be a good fit?

"Company culture" is an amorphous, almost undefinable concept for the chemistry among workers and their colleagues that evolves in sometimes unpredictable ways.

When it's right, the result is a stable, productive workforce. Get it wrong and that new hire you had hoped would rocket the firm to a new level can turn the office into a "Real Housewives" episode.

Making sure it's right is a key focus for a South Carolina executive recruiter.

Joachim "Joe" Woerner, founder and managing director of Q Works in Fort Mill, S.C., says his company pays particular attention to the culture issue as it plays matchmaker for client companies and mid- to upper-management candidates in the U.S. and internationally.


It starts with a comprehensive assessment of how the company works: How are decisions made at the firm? What steps does the company take to retain employees? And for the applicants: Are they comfortable collaborating with groups of people or do they prefer to work solo? Are they more interested in the job's potential for advancement or their starting salary?

"There are companies who hire people based on a resume alone. They look at their experience and their technical skills. But a lot of companies overlook their own culture and their own branding to find people that fit into that culture," Woerner said.

But the questions need to be asked: If a Google tech wizard wanted to try her hand in a more corporate setting, is that likely to work? Will the department manager of a major national bank thrive at a smaller financial institution where he has more influence but fewer resources?

If it's not a good fit -- "they could do the job, but it would take a lot of emotional energy to do that job -- they are either going to burn out or leave," Woerner said.

That means absorbing the time and expense of making a new hire sooner than expected or possibly paying to retrain the problem employee, all while productivity lags. Some estimates put the cost of a bad hire as equivalent to a one-time annual salary while the job search site has calculated that making a new hire will take about four months and cost the company $1,872.

Assessing the cultural fit between company and applicant is not a perfect science, Woerner acknowledged. No candidate is perfect and a company's culture is continually subject to change.

"Every person you add changes the culture," he said. "Our job is to reduce the odds of a bad hire."

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