Who Has Cultural Fit Down? The DMV!

admin Culture, Recruiting, RJ Morris

Cultural Fit is hard to describe for most folks. A company can have a culture that most observers say is “good,” but that doesn’t mean that all qualified candidates will be a good fit. And if you’re looking for an organization that gets hiring for cultural fit perfectly? I would suggest looking at… nope, not Netflix, not Google, not Target… look at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Surprised?  Think about it for a second.

I immediately think of Doris at the DMV. The overall culture at the DMV is dreadful and Doris is perfectly aligned with their culture which means their recruiters are apparently dead on perfect at identifying cultural alignment. Doris helped me the last two times I visited the DMV. On the most recent visit, she:

  • Shuffled in at 1:02 pm from her lunch break
  • Checked the clock
  • Sighed deeply
  • Called out the next number for a visitor
  • Sighed deeply
  • Processed his license

She said nothing to the customer during the encounter. He said nothing back. She sighed deeply, checked the clock, and repeated the exercise. The other people working with Doris had the same slow motion responses, same lack of eye contact and same lack of any sense of urgency. Check the clock, sigh and make the overall visit a miserable experience for the customers. Next… next.

Watching this pitiful scene play out, it hit me: someone at the DMV is doing a great job of hiring for their culture. In fact, they are hitting it out of the ballpark because there is no way that hiring an energetic, customer focused problem-solver would be considered a success there. The person would fail spectacularly or self-select out. So someone has worked the screening process to identify and hire only those individuals who can operate in that environment. Again, not necessarily the “best people,” but folks who are a good cultural fit.

Small_customer-service Hopefully, you’re part of a high performing organization where your culture is actually a positive differentiator— and if so, turns out, your role in finding the right “fit” is the same as the DMV recruiter. I think you have to find people who will thrive in your culture.  Hiring someone who is technically sound but who has cultural needs different from what the org can provide is going to backfire. I know; I have done it.

And please understand I am not talking about diversity. Finding different people from different backgrounds is crucial to solving problems in an increasingly global and dynamic world. But those people still need to have values and expectations that match the company’s, or there will be serious tension. Case in point, your stereotypical DMV hires won’t ever hack it at a company with a maniacal focus on the customer experience like the Four Seasons or Southwest. No one’s fault… they just would not align. And a good recruiter is going to find the best people for their company who are aligned with the specific culture.  Skills are good, folks, but you’ve got to look beyond skills.

And PS – A good recruiter or HR pro is also going to influence their culture positively. DMV personnel? Because we know you’re still called personnel over there… time to step it up and try to influence a more positive culture.