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Talent DNA: How to Find the Perfect Employee for Your Culture

by Guest Writter
Mark Demos and Krisandra Parsons, Founders, Corp-DNA

There is an ancient piece of wisdom that simply asks, “Can two walk together unless they be agreed?”  Agreement is more than a decision to associate or combine forces. Agreement has numerous facets that relate to personality, values and motivators.

Recently I overheard two HR managers discussing new hires. One said to the other, “I don’t care about their personality, I just need to check off if they’ve got the required skills.” To which the other HR person replied, “That’s all you need to know—period. “ I was appalled by this logic. Just because a new hire has the right skills match doesn’t mean they are the right Corporate Cultural DNA match. In fact, according to Forbes, personality plays a large part in employee performance and tenure.

Hiring what is believed to be the best talent does not mean you hired the right talent.  Employees that attended the best schools, were star performers at your most successful competitor, a leader in your industry and who promises great possibilities— will not ensure a great hire. It is a hit-and-miss proposition when that hire is not accurately matched to your Corporate Cultural DNA.

What if you could make your life easier by making the Talent Acquisition process a far more precise and productive endeavor and one that has a high predictability for success? Let’s use the analogy of organ donation to help explain how to make this process work for your company.

DNA is determinative and powerful. No matter how young, healthy and strong the potential donor organ is (potential hire), if it does not match the DNA of the potential host (hiring company), then disaster, disappointment and potentially termination are the likely results.

There are two essential elements are absolutely necessary for an organ transplant to be successful:

  1. The DNA Markers of the host must be known before the search for the organ begins.
  2. The healthy organ must be identified based on the host’s DNA requirements.

The same principles apply to a Talent Acquisition.

There’s at least a presumption here that your organization understands its own DNA and corporate culture. Many commercials for large enterprise companies are now touting in their copy, “It’s in our DNA.” Whatever the byline is, it’s now a testament of how deeply ingrained a certain attribute is to their company culture and to make sure the public knows it.

The following questions will help establish the cultural “DNA Markers” of a potential hire. The candidate should score at least 8 out 10, in cultural terms, when being interviewed:

  1. Unless your organization is very well known, like Apple or Microsoft, discuss the company culture, the way business is done and the way the business wants to be perceived to the public at large. Explain why the culture of the company has had an impact on the growth and success of the company and tell them how this impacts the employees. Then ask them what appeals to them about the company culture and why and what about their personality would add to the culture or vision of the company. This can be a quick two-minute overview.
  2. There are always two cultures for which a company hires: the culture of the entire organization at large and departmentally. Each department of the company has its own unique personality and demands as a part of the whole. Its culture isn’t an entirely separate entity, but much like an organ that performs a specific function for the entire well-being of the body. Be clear as to the nature of the department, sales is an inherently hard driving department with independent folks. The IT department has its own level of stress, but has a cultural climate of collaboration. As a follow-up to the prior question, discuss the culture of the department for which they will be potentially hired and what attributes of their own personality do they see as fitting. Bonus points for asking one of the star members of the department you’re hiring for to meet with the hire and ask a few questions.
  3. There are generally four areas of culture that will help the candidate clarify where they fit and how their talents can help the company achieve a high level of success and performance. These are a culture of customer service, innovation, operational excellence and spirit (serving a greater good). If the general cultural of the company is a different focus of the department they’re interviewing for, be sure to help them understand how the two come together to serve the overall purpose of the company. For instance, Virgin Air was created to innovate the airline industry, but as a rule, most employees interacting with the public are tasked with giving an excellent level of customer service. What makes the candidate capable with regards to the cultural requirements?
  4. The applicant’s resume has told you all about their skills, but dig deeper into what prompted their interest in this particular field. What drove them? What kept them going when things were tough in school, particularly when life outside school was difficult as well? These are direct questions, not “behavioral interviewing.” Most people have trouble with the question: Who are you? Most will panic because they’ve no idea who they are. These types of questions provide insight to their motivators, values and their character.  Will their attributes fit in well with your culture?

Since past behavior can be the best predictor of future behavior – in particular situations — behavioral interviewing is seen as the Holy Grail for peering into the core of a candidate and what they’re able to do or not do. It may seem heretical to suggest that anyone who has a measure of imagination can easily lie and tell you what you want to hear during a behavioral interview, but it happens all the time. Instead, get to know about the candidates’ real motives and how they see themselves in relation to what and who you are as a company. This will be far more accurate in the end.

About the Authors

Mark Demos and Krisandra Parsons, founders of Corp-DNA, a program member of NTEC, a type of business accelerator in Frisco. The company helps corporate, and institutional organizations build the best teams possible using Positive Forensics™. By focusing on the positive potential, talent and strengths rather than solely the correction of flaws, Corp-DNA cultivates productivity and genuine skill sets to help brands achieve success.

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