Is It a Good Cultural Fit? A Guide for Higher Ed Institutions

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Hiring isn’t just about academic qualifications. According to a past Robert Walters Whitepaper, cultural fit is a crucial recruitment metric for 90% of employers. A separate Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study also revealed that companies lost 50-60% of an employee’s annual salary due to misaligned cultural fit. However, culture fit isn’t only important for an organization—candidates should also decide whether an institution’s values align with their own philosophies and abilities. Some employees would even consider a pay cut in exchange for a better work-life balance and office culture.

What Is Cultural Fit?

Cultural fit is the evaluation of a candidate’s cultural impact on your organization. But before determining an individual’s institutional fit, let’s define company culture. An organization’s culture is the collective values, attitudes, and beliefs that guide company operations and staff interactions. And because institutional culture is unique to every organization, you’ll not attract the same candidates as your competitor. Remember, institutional fit doesn’t mean compromising on diversity. Studies reveal that stricter culture fit standards unleash an organization’s full potential while harnessing the experiences, perspectives, and skills of a diverse workforce.

Why Is Cultural Fit Important for Higher Ed Institutions?

Here’s why higher ed recruiters should prioritize culture fit. 

Employee Retention

Employees who resonate with your values have a greater sense of purpose, increasing their commitment to your institution. What’s more, employees are more collaborative when they share the same values, reducing conflict within the office. Such positive interactions increase job satisfaction and the desire to stay at the institution. Cultural alignment also motivates employees to take up roles beyond their job description. For example, they can volunteer for committees, take up leadership roles, and participate in events.

Financial Benefits

By increasing employee satisfaction, culture alignment reduces turnover rates to eliminate the cost of constant recruitment. Candidates with the right values adapt faster to your institutional systems, accelerating the recruitment process to save you time and money. In addition, you don’t have to spend too much on training since the employee already understands your cultural expectations. 


It’s not all about paychecks; employees also want to bring change through their work. Staff members are more committed to your institutional goals when their values align with your mission and vision. A passionate employee is also more innovative, bringing fresh perspectives to day-to-day problems. Moreover, cultural alignment accelerates onboarding so that employees can start their work as soon as possible. That’s not to mention the high retention rates that ensure continuous productivity among experienced employees.  

Considerations for Cultural Fit

Culture isn’t just about administrative policies– you need the right employees to sustain and reinforce your values. Here’s a checklist for determining institutional fit. 

Your Institution’s Culture

Finding the right candidate starts with defining and communicating your corporate culture. First off, list the values that guide your everyday operations and set you apart from everyone else. They can include:

  • Teamwork
  • Integrity
  • Mutual respect
  • Communication
  • Accountability
  • Diversity
  • Empathy
  • Passion
  • Initiative

You can also review your mission statement to get an idea of how daily tasks contribute to a greater goal. This goes together with observing your work environment—your employee interactions, work expectations, and communication styles can point to your core values.

Now that you know your company culture, the next step is to share it with candidates. You could highlight corporate culture through recruitment messaging, making sure to keep the tone consistent for your job descriptions, career page, candidate assessments, and interview questions. Additionally, use candidate feedback to refine your messaging and make your culture more relatable. 

Professional Strengths

Besides matching your institutional culture, a candidate should solve current and emerging problems with their professional strengths. Employees with unique strengths introduce fresh perspectives, challenge existing philosophies, and contribute to the continuous growth of your college or university.

The right skill sets also guarantee long-term relationships. You might be filling temporary positions but a clear definition of your professional requirements helps you build a talent community to supply talent on demand.

The Candidate’s Values

Asking about a candidate’s values reveals whether they share your institutional culture. What’s more, you get a feel of their communication style to know whether it matches your organizational standards. You can start by discussing their educational achievements and aspirations.

For instance, ask about how past accomplishments contribute to your institutional goals. Assuming a role requires civic participation, applicants should demonstrate a solid background in volunteer work. You could also reach out to the candidate’s references about their values, making sure to ask whether they have the necessary qualities for your organization. Additionally, craft behavioral questions specific to your organization’s culture. For example:

  • Do you think of yourself as a follower or a leader?
  • How do you relate to your colleagues?
  • How would your former employer describe you?
  • How would you describe your former employer?
  • What do you like about our recruitment process and what would you change?
  • How do you remain organized, especially when under pressure?
  • Describe your ideal work environment.
  • Would you spend time with colleagues past office hours and how would this affect your work relationships?
  • Would you rather participate in decision-making or await the outcome?


Ask about the candidate’s area of residence and their willingness to move to your institution’s locality. This way, you can gauge their commitment to your organization and the job at hand. Relocation also confirms flexibility—someone who is willing to move is more likely to adapt to your institution’s culture and changing industry dynamics.

Another benefit is diversity. By encouraging a candidate to move closer to your college or university, you welcome different backgrounds, perspectives, and cultures, enriching, and even challenging, your institutional values.

However, don’t pressure them into it. Allow candidates to research the new location, especially if the lifestyle isn’t what they’re accustomed to. For example, they can discuss the move with their families and friends and even take a trip to the institution before the interview day. A candidate who is open about their relocation challenges is more likely to be honest at work which is a necessary trait when determining cultural fit.

It Doesn’t Stop at Interviews

Remember, culture fit assessment lasts the entire onboarding process, from candidate selection to training and orientation. Let us match your institution with the right cultural fit. Contact nextSource today!

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