Understanding Culture as a Strategic Driver



Understanding Culture as a Strategic Driver




“Student Affairs is a great workplace where staff trust the people they work with, take pride in what they do, and feel a sense of community in support

of the student experience.”


It may seem arbitrary to consider “organizational culture fit” when hiring for a position in Student Affairs. Tara Hertstein, Recruiter for Student Affairs and also a member of the GO BIG Best Practices team shares some tips and best practices for managers to consider when recruiting and hiring.


  1. If I am hiring, how do I hire for our Student Affairs organizational culture? 

Here are some methods on how we can hire for our culture:

  • As a manager, understand how our core values of communication, honesty/integrity, and respect pertain to a positive workplace culture. Reflect how behaviors and actions  associated with our values can identify if a candidate truly is a “good fit.”

  • Use behavior-based or behavior focused questions to see how candidates have handled past situations that align with our core values.

  • During the interview process, communicate the Student Affairs Division’s core values (communication, honesty/integrity and respect) to the candidate.  Share stories on how the values are put into action in the workplace.

  • Offer tours of our campus/facilities/office.


  1. Why is hiring for organizational culture fit important?

According to Business News Daily, 80% of managers named cultural fit as a top priority when hiring new staff.  Hiring someone who is a “good cultural fit” is associated with many outcomes that affect the entire organization:

  • Great job satisfaction

  • They identify more with their organization

  • If the job fits their personality, they’re less likely to exhibit signs of depression and anxiety.

  • They were more committed

  • They contribute faster and perform better

  • Turnover rate is lower and they will likely stay longer within the organization if they feel the work is meaningful


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According to a Columbia University study, the likelihood of job turnover is at mere 13.9% if there is evidence of a strong workplace culture versus 48.4% rate where there is a weaker organizational culture.  

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), not hiring for cultural fit could cost an organization 50-60% of the person’s annual salary due to turnover. The cost included loss of productivity and time, cost to recruit and train new employee and employee morale being affected.  


Another reason to recruit and hire around culture is that while job demands and       requirements constantly shift, a defining characteristic of culture is that it remains constant in the face of change.  

A person hired based partly on his fit with an organization’s culture is more likely to continue on as a valuable company resource, even if the position he was originally hired for ceases to exist.  In fact, an effective organizational culture actually helps people work together to adapt to business changes.  

  1. How do I write the job description and the job posting to include our organizational values of communication, honesty/integrity, and respect?

  • Include the aspirational culture statement under the Departmental Overview of each job posting.

  • Include the following statement under the Responsibilities section of each job posting:


“As staff members within Student Affairs, we believe that it is our responsibility to live out our core values of communication, honesty/integrity and respect and to build a culture of pride, trust and community.”

  • Develop separate requirements within the job description that focus on our (3) organizational values.  These are examples of some behaviors that form how our values are “lived.”

    • Communication- Must possess strong communication skills and the ability to have positive and productive interactions with members from every level of the campus community.

    • Honesty/Integrity- Must have the ability to garner buy in or trust from stakeholders, staff, faculty, students etc.

    • Respect- Must demonstrate the ability to be considerate of the viewpoints, beliefs and philosophies of others.  


  1. What are some questions that  I can ask in the interview regarding communication, honesty/integrity and respect?


  • What kind of communication style would you like to give and receive that would allow you to have a sense of community and pride in your workplace?  

  • Describe three things about the communication within an organization that must be present for you to work most effectively?

  • When you had a boss in the past who failed to adequately communicate with you, how have you handled this?



  • What would be the best example that shows you are a person of integrity?

  • Please tell us about a time where you were in a situation where although it was difficult, you were honest and told the truth and suffered negative consequences.

  • Give me an example of an ethical decision you have had to make on the job.  What factors did you consider in reaching this decision?


  • Describe a situation in which you inspired trust and respect in your team.

  • How do you currently encourage your teammates to express their ideas and opinions?  Please give an example.

  • What does respect mean to you? What behaviors do you exhibit to colleagues as it relates to respect?


Overall Organizational Culture Questions:

  • What is the most important factor that must be present in your work environment for you to be successfully and happily employed?

  • Tell me about a time when you worked for an organization and you were not aligned with their culture. How did you navigate that environment, and what were the end results?

  • Please describe the greatest work day of your life and why?


  1. How do I know if it's a fit?

If you assess organizational culture fit throughout the recruiting process (specifically by asking a few cultural based questions) you will hire professionals who will thrive in their new roles, drive long-term growth and success for your organization, and ultimately save you time and money.  

6.  Post Hiring

So, you’ve hired the employee that was the most qualified and the best fit for the position, now what?  Here are a few tips to ensure that your new employee is prepared to succeed and thrive in your organization.

  • It is the responsibility of management to create a well thought out and organized on-boarding program.  This should include the following aspects:

    • A welcome email from the team/department to be sent out prior to their start date

    • A clean, stocked and organized work space

    • A tour of the office, department, building along with introducing the new employee to their new co-workers.

    • Introductory 1-on-1 meeting between manager and new employee to go over expectations, goals and cultural mission.

    • Attend SA’s division-wide onboarding program “Go Forth Go Bears” with your new staff member and introduce them to other colleagues.

    • Review the “New Employee Quick Start Guide” for more in-depth coverage.