Be a cultural fit for the employer

Finding candidates is a complex and challenging process and selecting the right ones is an art.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: Unsplash)

A hot topic that resonates in today’s world is cultural intelligence (CQ). It refers to a set of skills and competences that enables you to understand the cultural background and cultural styles of another person and then find ways how to work effectively together. Cultural intelligence, just like emotional intelligence (EQ), is becoming increasingly important in our globalised world.

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Currently in our school, we work with teachers of 10 different nationalities from a variety of cultural backgrounds and so having some degree of CQ is crucial for us.

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My job is to manage this team of teachers and also to help choose the right people for our organization. I’ve been in the English Language Teaching (ELT) industry for 20+ years and I must admit that as time passes in our institution, our criteria for selecting the right teachers have changed.

What actually matters

Our teachers are undoubtedly our greatest assets and, as such, it is imperative that we invest significant time, energy, and financial resources into finding and carefully selecting the best possible candidates.

When selecting the ideal candidates, we consider a range of important criteria, including their qualifications, teaching skills, and to what degree they are a cultural fit.

Being a cultural fit

How can we determine if the person we are hiring is the most suitable match for our school?

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Finding a cultural fit doesn’t mean that we want to hire someone who “looks like me, sounds like me, behaves like me, thinks like me”. To illustrate the point, here is a small example. My boss and myself are like chalk and cheese. While she is an unwavering optimist; I tend to approach things more realistically. I dislike being late, she lives in her own time zone. And yet, we’ve managed to work together for 14 years.

Rather, having a diverse range of people can be highly beneficial. Embracing and valuing differences can lead to greater creativity, innovation, and a more motivating environment. Working with different nationalities requires cultural intelligence, a mutual understanding of the differences, and showing respect to one another. For instance, without awareness and understanding, the Slovak straightforward communication style may clash with the more polite and indirect communication styles favoured by other nationalities.

For our institution, a cultural fit entails aligning with our core values and sharing our organizational beliefs. Values go beyond mere words displayed on the walls of company offices – they are a reflection of how we live. They are not just theoretical concepts, but rather tangible guiding principles that drive our actions and decisions on a daily basis.

Skills and abilities are equally important, but they can be enhanced with a continuous developmental programme and training. It is important to remember that if an individual does not align with the values of a company, they are unlikely to feel fulfilled and may not remain in the role for an extended period of time. From our experience, whenever we hired someone who didn’t fit culturally, it resulted in difficulties and discontent for both parties involved and eventually we parted ways.

To find a needle in a haystack

As they say: “Job interviews are like first dates: good impressions count, awkwardness can occur, outcomes are unpredictable.”

Finding candidates is a complex and challenging process and selecting the right ones is an art. It’s not easy to read between the lines, ask the right questions, correctly interpret subtle signals and behaviour, evaluate candidates’ experience and try to figure out if the applicant is a cultural fit. Often there is a limited amount of time to get to know a candidate during the hiring process, making it challenging to assess if it is a match.

It’s worth noting that job interviews often serve as a chance for employers to showcase their company and attract good people. To determine if a particular company is the right fit for a candidate, it’s helpful to inquire about the company’s culture and to seek opinions from their current employees.

And it’s crucial to acknowledge that once we’ve hired the right people, we must continue creating an environment where they feel valued and appreciated.

The author of the blog is Andrea Záhumenská. She is currently the Director of Studies at the Bridge English Language Centre in Bratislava, Slovakia.

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