Measuring the cultural fit correctly in three steps!

In the modern world of work, the term “cultural fit” is currently, on everyone’s mind. This refers to the congruence between the values, attitudes and behaviors that apply and are practiced in a company on the one hand and those of potential employees on the other. The focus is on the question: Does the applicant fit into the company?

Definition of cultural fit:

The term “cultural fit”, which originates from personnel psychology, describes the correspondence between the existing organizational culture in a company and the desired organizational culture from the perspective of (potential) employees. A high cultural fit is achieved when employees can identify with the organizational culture, i.e. with the values, attitudes, and actions practiced within the company.

While recent studies show that the perceived importance of cultural fit in personnel selection is rising sharply, it is only systematically measured in less than 10% of selection processes. But why is that?

On one side play here myths and a lot of half-knowledge play a role, which causes circulating around the term (read here the blog article, in which we dispel the 6 biggest myths about cultural fit!) On the other side, HR managers often simply lack the know-how and the appropriate tools to integrate cultural fit measurements into their personnel selection process – not least because of the often poor scientific foundation of existing test procedures on the market.

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We reveal the secret of success for a scientifically sound cultural fit measurement in three simple steps!

1. As-is analysis: What characterizes our corporate culture?

The first and yet most important step in developing and selecting cultural fit measurement methods is to look inward at one’s own organizational culture (as-is analysis)). Despite its importance, however, such an as-is analysis often does not take place, or takes place only inadequately. This is often because those who are responsible find it difficult to describe their own organizational culture. After all, it is often not so easy to put into words what really constitutes one’s own organizational culture and what values and attitudes the company stands for. Consider how difficult it will probably be for you to summarize your values and attitudes in a few sentences. In terms of an entire organization, the process is certainly no easier.

The problem:

What is not defined cannot be measured. And what you can’t measure, you can’t control. Another bad news: writing off the glossed-over statements of competitor companies, such as flat hierarchies and start-up mentality, without actually living them, is unfortunately not enough at this point.

A clear critical self-analysis of one’s own corporate culture and the transfer of this into central measurable dimensions (see step 2) is thus indispensable. But how does such a self-analysis succeed? One key to success is to ask your employees. Because what makes up an organizational culture is not least the interplay of the attitudes and values of each individual. Why not ask employees (e.g. about attitudes to teamwork, desire for structure) to find out what really makes up the organizational culture? Ideally, such questionnaires go beyond an analysis of the current state and also address the changes in organizational culture desired by employees(Destination status, where do we want to go?).). This is the only way to avoid a focus on the past and to ensure that a consistent focus on the future does not fall by the wayside. In addition to being too focused on the past, there is a frequent mistake in a cross-departmental and cross-location definition of culture that does not sufficiently consider the specifics of individual departments or locations. But suppose the values and expectations in the HR department in Berlin differ fundamentally from those in the IT department in Walsrode. In that case, this has serious consequences: Despite elaborate tests, the cultural fit of newly hired IT employees is not present to the department in which they are supposed to work daily. As you can see: Defining your own organizational culture is not that easy, and various pitfalls are lurking on the way to the goal. Particularly if you have little experience with the topic, it is therefore advisable to obtain external support, for example from an experienced diagnostic service provider or a coach who conducts moderated cultural feedback.

How to:

  • Reality-based assessment of corporate culture based on employee surveys

  • Future orientated instead of past orientated (“Where are we and where do we want to go?”)

  • Flexibility in defining department- and site-specific values

How not to:

  • Glossing over own corporate culture and lack of critical self-analysis
  • Past oriented instead of future oriented (“Where are we and where have we been for years?”)
  • One-fits it all concept: Rigid adoption of one culture for all departments and locations

2. Definition and measurement of the characteristics defined in the job profile

Once the corporate culture has been defined, the next step is to identify the values, behaviors and attitudes that are directly related to good collaboration and professional success. These can be, for example, preferences regarding the work environment and collaboration. Here, too, it is important to avoid a typical mistake: Hiding behind buzzwords like start-up mentality, which sound good at first but say little when you look behind the facade. After all, what start-up mentality means for the individual can vary greatly – so it is better to pick out specific aspects such as a hands-on mentality, a high level of team orientation or flexibility in process design. The advantage: These can be integrated into an empirical Integrate job profile and measure directly using psychologically based test procedures.

Aivy does this in a fun way, for example, with a psychometric mini-game that measures applicants’ preferences for flexibility and stability orientation and compares them with actual workplace conditions (see Figure 1, Dreamteam Challenge). The scientific foundation for the mini-game for this is provided by the competing values framework (Quinn et al. 1991). A cultural fit is given when the expectations of the applicants regarding the work environment and the actual work environment match. According to this, applicants with a high flexibility orientation fit well into a company in which flexible structures prevail and there is always the possibility of rethinking them, while applicants who want very stable and established structures would be in less good hands here. In other words, it is a matter of finding out whether the company offers or can offer the working environment in which the employee is maximally productive.

Dreamteam mini-game

How to:

  • Definition of measurable cultural fit dimensions and integration of these into a job profile
  • Continuous testing of the connection between cultural fit and professional success
  • Objective evaluation of cultural fit using scientifically based test procedures

How not to:

  • Imprecise definition and lack of ability to measure the defined cultural fit dimensions.

  • Capture modern looking buzzword with little context to professional success

  • Subjective evaluation of cultural fit in unstructured interviews (unconscious biases).

  • Capturing modern-looking buzzword with low correlation to career success

3. Continuous development and holistic integration in the search, application and development process

Another important secret of success is the continuous further development of the measurement methods. Accordingly, cultural fit measurement must be seen as continual improvement process . Ideally, not only are correlations to professional success drawn upon and self-learning algorithms used to make the prediction of cultural fit ever more accurate and valid, but the underlying definition of organizational culture is also continuously questioned and adjusted in terms of its currency. It is advisable to use cultural fit tests along the entire candidate journey . Aivy offers versatile Cultural Fit Tests, which can be used as a Orientation solution (self-assessment) for candidates on the career site, during the application process as an early selection tool (pre-assessment) and as a tool for employee bonding (continuous assessment). A good cultural fit process not only helps to identify whether the values of the company and those of the applicants match, but also signals when the values of the company and those of the current employees drift apart (e.g. in the case of restructuring). As in private life, “love at first sight” is not enough when it comes to cultural fit: The relationship between the company and its employees must be continuously nurtured.

How to:

  • Continuous examination of the correlation between cultural fit and professional success

  • Holistic integration of the cultural fit along the candidate journey

How not to:

  • Implicit assumption of a relationship between cultural fit and career success

  • Isolated consideration of cultural fit as a personnel selection tool

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  • Quinn, R. E., Hildebrandt, H. W., Rogers, P. S., & Thompson, M. P. (1991). A competing values framework for analyzing presentational communication in management contexts. Journal of Business Communication, 28, 213–232.

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