A Little More on Culture Fit...

By Kristen Hayer


Last week I wrote an article about 3 kinds of interviews that can hurt your recruiting process and drive away good candidates. While that article made the point that you can focus too much on culture fit during the interview process, how well a team member engages with the rest of the team is very important. How do you balance culture fit and job performance? What do you do when one of the members of your team isn’t fitting in? Here’s my take on culture:

What is Culture Fit?

Culture fit, at the highest level, means that each employee is aligned with the corporate mission and values. For example, if integrity is a company value, then in order to fit the company’s culture each employee should demonstrate that they are honest in their dealings with coworkers and customers. Another core part of culture fit is the ability to work effectively with other members of the group. Can employees influence others and drive change through relationships? That is culture fit at work. Employees who fit well with the culture also perform at the same level as the rest of the group. For example, it can be a mismatch when one person takes a casual, slow approach to their work while the rest of the group is performing at a significantly faster pace. Finally, a critical part of fitting in with any culture is openness to being managed and coached. While new employees may come in generally aligned with the company and team, a great manager will help each team member become an even better fit over time.

What Culture Fit Isn’t

Unfortunately culture fit is often interpreted to mean being well liked, friends with everyone, and similar to other teammates. This interpretation can create real problems in terms of diversity and performance. If you only hire people who are just like the rest of your team, you may be missing out on skills and strengths that come from people who are different. For example, if your team is boisterous and outgoing but one team member is quiet and spends the day focused on work, that doesn’t necessarily mean that person isn’t a culture fit. If the quiet person works well with others and performs at the same level as the rest of the group, I would argue that they are a culture fit. Likewise, while it can be fun to have a team where everyone is friends both inside and outside of the office, that isn’t a requirement for culture fit. A teammate can be a great team player and able to effectively influence others without being friends with everyone.

When Someone Isn’t Fitting In

So what do you do as a leader when you notice that someone on your team isn’t fitting in? Before you go down the path of moving them off your team, it may be worth exploring what is going on. Start by learning more about them. What are their strengths? How do they like to work? What do they get excited about? Building a relationship with your team member will teach you how to help them fit in. Make room for them on the team by helping other team members understand their perspective. The more your team gets to know about this person, the more they will accommodate their differences. Finally, be willing to be uncomfortable. It is human nature to want to be around people that are similar to us, but if we do that we’re missing out on the benefits that people who are different bring to the table. Stepping outside of your comfort zone, and encouraging your team to do the same, can result in a diverse and higher performing group.

Do you need help creating a model (including a culture fit component) of your ideal CSM? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that will work with you to build a custom hiring kit, including a role model, job description and interview questions. Visit our website for more information about our services – TheSuccessLeague.io

This Thursday - Customer Goals & Outcomes Class


Customer Goals & Outcomes is the class that started it all, and the one we think is the most important! Learn how to uncover the outcomes your customers expect from your solution, and how to partner with your customers to build goals. This is information you'll use throughout the customer lifecycle to make sure they see a return on investment from your products and services.

Join us this Thursday, August 24th at 12pm Pacific / 3pm Eastern for a 60-minute class that will change your Customer Success approach forever!

Strikedeck Radio - Episode 12

What a fun interview! In Episode 12 I talk with Irene Lefton (VP Customer Success, Medigram) about why the different generations that are currently a part of the workforce - Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials - sometimes clash. We talk about ways this impacts customers and coworkers, and how to minimize the negative and leverage the strengths of these different groups.

Strikedeck Radio is a partnership between Strikedeck and The Success League. You can subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud, or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter to get updates on new episodes.


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Both weekly, online classes are instructor-led by our CEO, Kristen Hayer, a former VP of Customer Success, CS thought leader, and speaker. Learn from your peers through discussion and live Q&A.

"If you are building your Client Success program, these classes are a must. The Success League covers everything you need to know to set up your department for success. If you’ve been in the business for a while, these classes remind you of tips you’ve probably forgotten, validate some ideas you’ve already implemented and give you ideas for ways to grow your program and better meet your clients needs."  -Tracy Livers, Client Success Manager, MobileSmith

Classes start next week. Sign up for the series by August 18 for 20% off.

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3 Bad Interviews – And How to Fix Them

By Kristen Hayer

In Customer Success it is a candidate’s market right now. Companies are adding and expanding success teams, and the pool of experienced CSMs is still relatively small. In order to recruit top talent, you need a stellar recruiting practice. Unfortunately, after spending time and money collecting amazing candidates, many leaders make major mistakes in the interview process. Here are 3 types of interviews that can turn off great candidates.

The Disorganized Interview

The candidate shows up a little early, but then sits in the lobby for 25 minutes waiting for their interviewer to show up. When they finally do, they clearly haven’t prepared good questions. The conversation is awkward, and the candidate leaves completely unsure of how the interview went and where they stand.

If your interview process is disorganized, your candidate will assume that your whole company is disorganized. You might get away with it once or twice, but high-performing, career-driven professionals will pass you up.

The Unresponsive Interview

The candidate shows up on time, you have a great conversation, and they get along with the team. They feel like the interview went really well. That is, until you fail to get back in touch with them, leaving them wondering what is going on for weeks at a time.

Even if someone isn’t a fit for the role, they can still refer other people to your organization. On the flip side, they can also badmouth your company out in the job market. You risk losing solid candidates and gaining a bad reputation.

The Fun Culture Interview

The candidate is asked a few job-related questions during the phone interview, and then is invited in to make sure they are a culture fit. There are group interviews, a day of shadowing people at the office, and beers with the team. The candidate leaves wondering if they are being interviewed for a job or a fraternity.

Culture fit is important, but it isn’t the only thing candidates are looking for. By focusing interviews primarily on culture fit you run the risk of hiring the wrong people (someone who is a good culture fit can still be bad at the job) and turning off more serious, career-focused candidates.

So, what should you do to prevent interviews like these?

Plan Ahead

Create a written model of your ideal CSM. Consider factors like industry experience, education, leadership, and communication skills. If you have a larger CS team, think about your top performers as you build your model. Then develop strong open-ended interview questions that uncover whether your candidates have the traits you’re looking for. Think about the answers you expect to hear. Finally, choose interviewers with experience, and prep them by assigning them questions to ask all of the candidates.

Show Up and Listen

Be on time to your interviews, or if there is an emergency and you can’t be there, take the time to apologize and reschedule. Treat candidates like you hope they will treat your customers. Ask the questions you came up with ahead of time, and take notes on the answers. The candidate took their time to come in and meet with you, so give them your full attention. Active listening will also help you to come up with additional questions as needed to explore the candidate’s experience.

Follow Up

Once you’ve had a chance to regroup with everyone who was involved in the interview process, it’s time to make some decisions. First, if they are a no-go candidate let them know right away.  Send them a thank you note, but be clear that the role isn’t a fit. It isn't fair to string candidates along. If you do decide to continue the process, get the next steps sorted out right away (ideally, within a day or two). Finally, if you decide to make an offer, get that to your candidate quickly so you don’t lose them to another company.

Candidates will assume that you treat your customers the same way you treat job-seekers. Make your interviews a great experience, and you’ll be more likely to attract and hire top customer success talent.

Do you need help creating a model of your ideal CSM? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that will work with you to build a custom hiring kit, including a role model, job description and interview questions. Visit our website for more information about our services – TheSuccessLeague.io