I've been doing a lot of culture interviews lately.
SalesLoft is growing at a crazy rate, but hiring people means participating in a lengthy interview process, from call screens to sending email questionnaires to filling out assessments to speaking in-person. And hiring the right people means doing even more interviews.
Recruitment software company Workable reports a metric called the “average number of interviews per hire,” which they say is key in revealing how much time senior members of the team are spending on an individual hire. Overall, regardless of industry or country, they found that the average number of interviews per hire is 14. Marketing automation company Marketo reports eight interviews per hire, though this varies for them depending on the role (finance takes more while, interestingly, engineering takes fewer).
I know, it seems like a lot of time to spend just talking to people, but making a bad hire can be really costly. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, “research suggests that direct replacement costs can reach as high as 50%-60% of an employee’s annual salary, with total costs associated with turnover ranging from 90% to 200% of annual salary.” (Emphasis mine.) Not to mention that Recruiterbox, an applicant tracking system, says that 38% of the bad hires were a result of companies just rushing to fill those positions!
Between realizing the cost of bad hires and the glamorization of tech/startup culture, the next step was a big push for “culture interviews” to help identify The Right Candidate. Publications everywhere wanted to tell you why you should be hiring for culture fit and the best questions to ask. And in response (because Internets), we’re now hearing why you shouldn’t hire for culture fit, and how it can negatively impact diversity or mask discrimination.
Here is what I have to say about culture interviews: They’re incredibly important to building a cohesive, intelligent, transparent, creative, innovative and motivated team. But whether a culture interview helps you build that type of team really depends on what “culture fit” means to your company.
If by “culture fit” you mean whether or not you’d grab a beer with them after work, you may want to re-think your standards.
When I go into a culture interview, I’m not looking for someone who looks or acts like me (though a tendency to prefer people who are like us is an inherent bias we all have and should be aware of). I’m not looking for someone who’s read the same books or lives in the same area of town or is in the same life stage or likes the same restaurants. That’s how you end up hiring people who think just like you do, which leads to a lack of diversity, and that leads to reduced creativity, diligence and hard work.
Instead, I’m looking for someone who fits the SalesLoft core values.
Now, let’s be clear on this: Core values are only as good as your company makes them. They can be empty and meaningless phrases you put on a PowerPoint at conferences, or they can be words and actions you live by. They have to be consistently upheld by everyone on your team, from leadership on down, and you have to hold each other accountable.
You can match people up with core values without having them be just like you. When I’m in a culture interview, I’m looking for someone who will look for the silver lining in a tough situation and say, “Okay, well, let’s not do that again, but here’s what we learned from it and here’s how to fix it!” I’m looking for someone who is willing to talk about not just successes but also failures, and who’s humbly open to finding a better way to do something. Who’s continually looking to grow and learn new things. Who takes the time to get to know, value, trust and support their coworkers, and who works to understand where someone else is coming from in any situation.
I’m looking for an approach to life, not a socioeconomic or demographic match. On paper, some of my teammates could not look more different. But when it comes to core values, they align. They think “outside the box” because their boxes don’t even touch each other, and this diversity of thought shows up in amazing ways throughout the company.
We as a company are also working on inclusion and diversity (an effort led by my fantastic coworker, Carina!), looking at the myriad of ways conscious and unconscious biases impact what we do, what we say, and how we say it. We’re holding each other accountable to thinking this way. We are committed to continual growth, because we can always be a better place to work.
I’m lucky to work with incredible people. But with every culture interview, I see the chance to grow and improve, another opportunity to bring in a fresh viewpoint. I see a chance to learn something new, something different, something amazing.
I see a chance to build a team that gets exponentially stronger with every addition. And that’s why I do culture interviews, because our people are our most valuable resource. In the long run, 14 interviews is a small price to pay to make our team better.
Shameless plug: Interested in experiencing SalesLoft's culture first-hand? We're hiring!