In the Wall Street Journal article, “Buffett: Combs Is ‘a 100% Fit’,” culture fit is described as a critical criteria for selecting Buffett’s heir apparent:
Mr. Buffett says he and Mr. Munger (Berkshire Vice Chairman) were sold on Mr. Combs not only because of his ability and intelligence but also because they were convinced he would fit in to Berkshire’s no-fuss culture.
Buffett knows that a culture can change when a founder leaves an organization, and this can have a significant impact on the company and its future. Buffett states:
He is a 100% fit for our culture. I can define the culture while I am here, but we want a culture that is so embedded that it doesn’t get tested when the founder of it isn’t around. Todd is perfect in that respect.
So how do you determine if a candidate for a job is a 100% fit?
Companies screen applicants on at least two levels. First, they evaluate the candidate’s fit for the job. When evaluating an applicant for job fit, companies consider these questions:
- Does this person have the knowledge and skills necessary for this job?
- What past experiences have prepared the applicant for the job?
- Do the strengths of the applicant match the requirements for the job?
- Will this person be sufficiently challenged doing this work?
But more and more organizations are adding a second layer of questioning: to evaluate the candidate’s fit with the culture of the organization. When evaluating an applicant for culture fit, companies think about these questions:
- Is the work of our organization something that is meaningful to the applicant?
- Are the applicant’s values in harmony with the values of the organization?
- Will the person naturally perform in ways that are consistent with how we do things here?
How well a job candidate fits the culture of a workplace can make the difference between job search success and failure. Those candidates selected on the basis of culture fit—in addition to job fit—will contribute faster, perform better and stay longer with the organization. Where culture fit is neglected, the burden is shared by both the employee and the company. Working at a company with values inconsistent with yours can be difficult, stressful and unrewarding. And if the new employee is the heir apparent, then the future of the company is at stake.
Culture fit is important for all potential employees. A person’s values are difficult to change. When you are not a fit with the culture of an organization, that fit cannot easily be altered through training and development. It’s just not the right place for you and not the right life for you to live.
Seeking that 100% fit is important in hiring employees and is essential in picking top leadership. This is why many organizations promote succession planning where internal candidates–who are known entities–are the candidates who get the top positions.
So, if you are a company, be sure you’ve defined your company’s culture–particularly your core culture. Use an organization-wide process to define the organization’s Purpose and Philosophy: the central and distinguishing attributes that are the character of the organization and the cause that it has served over the years. You must also know the Priorities of the organization so that you can screen to ensure that candidates naturally practice the values needed to achieve your goals.
By understanding the candidate and an organization’s core culture, you can screen for culture fit. A successful organization hires people who want to live the culture effortlessly.