How Cultural Fit can change the game for your Startup

Cultural Fit can completely change the game for your startup. Learn how to bring in the best talent that aligns with the values and behaviors.

We all have heard (or even said) that Culture eats Strategy for breakfast.

But even when the phrase has become so popular that it already sounds overused, it’s really hard to measure something as intangible as culture. Yet many companies attribute a big chunk of their success to the concept.

Culture has many faces, and it completely differs from one Startup to another. There are many things that we could say about it, but today we want to highlight the importance of culture when recruiting and building high-performing teams.

Let’s start by quickly defining what company culture means. It’s basically the behaviors and values that shape the way you do business and the experience you offer both to your employees and customers.

Sounds pretty important, huh?

But as it is important it’s also very general, and difficult to grasp. In fact, many companies believe their culture is the values they put out on their website and recall to employees every 6 months or so during the Town Hall meeting.

Long story short: That’s not it folks.

If you want to excel at culture building, make it less about what is said and more about what things are done and how.

Culture goes from something as simple as how you all interact with each other to something as deep as how errors are handled within the organization.

Usually, when a company is starting, the culture is completely shaped around the values and ways of working of its founders. Some people say that companies, like children, inherit both the good and bad things about their founders.

While that's absolutely normal, it also changes very fast as a company grows, and like everything else, it only gets harder and harder with more people coming in, with different backgrounds, experiences and ways of working.

That’s where Cultural Fit comes in.

When a growing company starts to hire at the same pace it grows without having a clear understanding of what culture means for them, it’s usually a recipe for disaster.

It doesn't mean that you necessarily should have everything figured out, because we know that’s something that evolves with the company. Still, you should at least identify the main traits and characteristics someone should have in order to thrive in your company.

Once you have identified the main values and behaviors you want the people inside the company to share, it’s time to start bringing in those candidates that will change the game for the business.

Let’s dive into that.

How do I know someone is a fit?

The old way of recruiting was completely centered on experience. If you wanted to hire someone to lead your commercial team, you would look for someone with a ton of experience working as a commercial executive.

In today’s world and especially for Startups, hiring goes way beyond that.

At Polymath we have learned this the hard way. After 10 years of building companies, from the founding team to the operational staff, we do know a thing or two about how to bring together the right team to make things happen.

And yes, experience is important, but in this case, culture eats experience for breakfast.

We don’t mean that you should go and hire a bunch of interns to lead your company's strategy as long as they fit your culture. But you shouldn’t do the opposite either.

Now we want to lay out some important questions that can help you evaluate how much a person could be a fit for your company’s culture.

As we already stated there are not two cultures that are the same, so we cannot just copy and paste someone else's questions and methodologies and expect that to work.

But we do know there are a few things that you should always check, and if you don’t get a convincing answer on those, you probably are in front of someone who does not fit your culture.

Again this is no magic formula, but here are 3 general questions you could always use to determine if a candidate is a fit for your culture.

Am I excited to work with this person?

It might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how underrated this question is.

If you end an interview and you just don’t feel excited about working with that person, that’s pretty much everything you need to know about it.

What’s difficult is that this question does not admit hesitation, there’s no grey area here, you are either excited about them or not.

This is certainly something that can be applied to each and every company, no matter the specific values of the culture because our starting point is that we want people to get along and enjoy the work they will be doing together.

Ask yourself this after every interview and you will be one step closer to defining and shaping your company’s culture.

Is this person self-aware of their abilities and opportunities?

Asking direct questions about values, abilities and possible improvement opportunities helps you identify how good a fit the person could be.

The first thing you should look out for is, of course, how much clarity and awareness the candidate has about their own, and how they connect those to the specific role you are trying to fill.

Do not miss the chance to be vocal about what you are expecting from them, and try to reinforce those values where you find a better match, so you can see and analyze their reactions.

Self-aware professionals make the best candidates because they are able to identify by themselves the connections or disagreements they could have with your culture.

Remember the selection process goes both ways, it’s not only the company that’s testing the candidate but also the other way around.

Is this person interested in what the company does and its impact?

Best cultural fits are found in the intersection between the purposes of the company and the candidate.

Make sure the person you are interviewing has a real interest in the problem your company is trying to solve.

Ask directly, and as many times as it’s necessary to understand how much information your candidate gathered about your mission and closely analyze their reactions when you talk about the impact you are expecting to create.

If someone is at least half as excited as you are about the problem, congrats, you are in the right track to finding a cultural fit.

Don’t take our word for it

You didn’t think we would let you go without giving you some stats, right?

Here they go:



Our Talent department has been building and growing high-performing teams for our Startups for almost 10 years and we have developed an entire methodology to make it easier to find the kind of entrepreneurial talent that fits your company’s culture.

If you want to know how we can help you, schedule a meeting here.