You’ve found a standout candidate who ticks all the boxes. She’s got a first-rate education and lots of relevant, high level experience; she’s dedicated and hard-working, and just led a hugely successful project that’s exactly what you want to undertake in your own organization. Time to present an offer, right?

Not so fast. Technical skills are just the ante to play the game. If your company’s using different rules or playing a different game – in other words, if the cultural fit isn’t right – your “perfect” candidate could still fail.

Understand your company’s culture

Cultural fit is a concept you hear a lot about, but a surprising number of companies misunderstand or misrepresent their culture. If you want to consistently hire employees who will succeed, the first step needs to be a detailed and disciplined analysis of your culture.

Is your structure hierarchical or matrix; is the operating style formal or informal? Is the company risk friendly or risk averse? Are you principally poised for growth and change or efficiency and profitability?

Thoroughly define what your environment is, and be brutally honest. You may wish the company valued creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, but new hires won’t thrive if there are rigid expectations of how work should be carried out.

There is one exception. If you’re not content with the current corporate environment, it is possible for a new executive to act as the catalyst for a cultural shift. However, it’s a very difficult environment to bring a new executive into, so you need to be completely open about the expectations and carefully assess the specific skill set this will require.

Understand your candidate

Now that you have a good understanding of your company’s culture, you’re in a better position to decide if your candidate really is the one for you.

To begin, you need to shift the focus from what was done to how it was done. Ask questions that will shed light on her personality and what kind of environment she succeeds in. Is she an optimist or a pessimist; aggressive or passive; a leader or a follower? Does she work best in a structured or unstructured environment? Is she analytical or spontaneous?

There are no wrong answers, but to maximize the likelihood of success, your goal should be a seamless fit between your candidate and your culture. If there are significant inconsistencies, she’s probably not the best choice for you.