4 ways to assess and hire for team fit at a distributed company

Learn how to hire for team fit (and why it's important).

Two people sitting at laptops talking

It’s no secret that teams that work well together will be more collaborative, productive, and satisfied with their jobs. Because of this, recruitment teams typically establish a process for identifying, assessing, and hiring employees with team dynamics in mind. 

Beyond work history and skill competencies, team fit can be a strong indicator for employee success at a company. The importance of developing a cohesive company culture is even higher on remote teams. In distributed environments especially, skills are just one factor when it comes to finding the perfect candidate for a job. It’s important that candidates align with a company’s values, beliefs, and ways of working too.

Team fit definition

It can be challenging to assess the team fit of a virtual candidate when the company culture seems undefined. In this blog post, you’ll learn about the importance of identifying team fit, plus some questions you can include in your interview process to hire with team fit in mind.  

Why is team fit important for a distributed workforce?

Hiring for team fit will ensure that everyone in the company has shared values and goals. This unification is especially important for remote teams that rely more heavily on communication and job commitment than in-person teams. 

Team fit can have a direct impact on employee engagement and retention, as well as company productivity. If an employee is a bad team fit—which typically presents as demotivation, decreased job satisfaction, and isolation—it can impact the entire team.

When you get it right, new hires will quickly integrate into your team, feel empowered to make contributions, and demonstrate strong work performance. Ultimately, these employees will have greater job satisfaction, productivity, and engagement, and will stay at the company longer. 

While you can teach employees new skills, you can’t teach value alignment. Hiring for team fit requires an understanding of the company’s values and their application in employee interactions and expectations. It’s an investment that can save your company time and money in the long run. 

How to assess candidates for remote team fit

Remote team fit extends beyond a candidate’s alignment with company values. You’ll need to consider their work style and whether it’s compatible with how your company operates. 

Check for distributed or remote work experience 

Remote work isn’t for everyone. And if we’re honest, it can be lonely. Some people enjoy working independently in a flexible work environment, while others prefer or need in-person interaction and collaboration to feel fulfilled. It’s important to be transparent with candidates and to evaluate if a remote work environment would be an enjoyable experience for them. 

Evaluate if the candidate has any remote work experience or has worked with distributed teams in previous jobs. Ask about what the experience was like—what did they enjoy about working remotely and how did they overcome common challenges?

Ask questions that help you assess the candidate on the qualities your organization values most

What management style do you work best under?

While nobody wants to be micromanaged, some individuals may prefer a more structured work environment. Others may prefer a more hands-off approach when it comes to management. Identifying and assessing manager-employee fit during the recruitment and interview process can prevent workplace tension. 

How do you work on teams and what type of role do you usually take?

Consider the existing dynamics on the team and how the candidate can play to the team’s strengths and weaknesses. In a remote work environment, you’ll also want to screen for individuals that are independently motivated. 

How would you describe your work style?

Some people are very detail-oriented and enjoy figuring out the nitty-gritty of how to get work done—work that requires a lot of organization and deep focus. Meanwhile, others are big picture thinkers that have a gift for seeing how pieces can fit together on a large scale—work that requires a lot of communication and collaboration. It’s important to create a balanced team that has a diversity of work styles represented.

How to assess and hire for team fit

During the interview process, ask open-ended questions that go beyond skill evaluation. Include questions that get the candidate to share information about their personality and values. This might look like:

Evaluating skills that will help a candidate do well in a distributed team environment

Provide an opportunity for the candidate to share their strengths and weaknesses and consider how their answers fit into the context of a remote work environment. While struggling to stay organized can be addressed, poor communication can have ripple effects that can be a dealbreaker. The same may be said for job seekers who lack autonomy and discipline.

Making sure the candidate has considered your company’s culture and has a good understanding of what working for your company looks like

This will help screen for applicants that are particularly passionate about your company and its culture. At the very least, they should be familiar with the company values that are publicly shared. The strongest candidates will be able to identify how they have lived these values in their past experiences. 

The interview stage is also the best time for you to share more information and answer any questions about company culture that a candidate may have. 

Beyond asking questions, the interview process can also include coffee chats to allow current employees to meet candidates in an informal setting. Since these are the people that the candidate would work with day to day, this can help the candidate understand what the company culture looks like. You can also role-play common scenarios to learn more about how candidates respond to different situations. 

Evaluating a candidate’s motivations and understanding of your company culture can provide insight into how they would contribute to your team. By the end of the interview process, you should have a thorough understanding of how the candidate behaves in different environments. 

Hiring for team fit

How to hire for team fit

Define and document your company culture

For some companies, defining and documenting the company culture will be an important first step to hiring for team fit. Identify the company’s core values and metrics to evaluate candidates against. Once you understand what your company culture entails, you’ll be able to clearly communicate it and answer any questions candidates have. 

Everyone on the team should be in alignment and able to articulate what the values, norms, and practices are that define your company. The company mission is the central pillar. At Oyster, our mission is to create a more equal world by making it possible for companies everywhere to hire people anywhere. Our values—elevate talent, build trust, thrive together—reflect our mission. 

By defining your company’s culture, you’ll have scalable guidelines to evaluate candidates for team fit, rather than relying on intuition or a “gut feeling” that is subject to personal bias. Hiring for team fit shouldn’t preclude individuals with different cultures and lifestyles from joining the company. It is important to be intentional about hiring a diverse team that is united by the company’s mission. 

Align as a company

Make sure everyone involved with the hiring process is on the same page about how to discuss company culture with applicants. They should understand the company culture and reference it throughout the hiring process. 

Company culture has become a bit of a buzzword. Individuals involved with the hiring process should be trained on how to share information about culture in a genuine way, and HR employees should offer examples and other ways to contextualize how culture is demonstrated in the company. 

Share your company culture online

The interview process should not be the first time that a candidate learns about your company’s culture. Make sure your culture shines through in your branding and marketing. For example, many companies dedicate a page on their website to communicating company values. At Oyster, we make it clear that our values live at the heart of what we do

Link back to your company values page to demonstrate how they live across business operations—from careers and hiring to customer experience standards. Including employee testimonials and videos can bring these words to life and help prospective candidates understand what it really looks like to work at your company. 

Reference your company values in your job listings and in hiring materials. This communicates that culture is an important metric during the recruitment process. When advertising a job posting, you may even consider adding a link to your values page on your website.  

Include company culture in the onboarding process

During the onboarding process, new hires should review documentation on company values and expectations. Create opportunities for new hires to meet with their manager or the CEO to ask questions about the company culture in the first few weeks of hiring. This is a good chance to share more about the rationale and intention behind the company’s values, and how employees can demonstrate them in their day to day work. 

These meetings can also be a time for the company to get feedback on the company culture. New employees can offer a valuable, fresh perspective, and may even be able to offer suggestions for improvements based on past experiences. 

Hiring for team fit is a dynamic process

Integrating team fit into the hiring process will preserve and strengthen your company’s culture. These strategies to assess team fit can improve employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity. In remote work settings, the role of company culture as glue is magnified. Employees that align with your company culture and values will champion your company and serve as strong ambassadors, improving your company’s reputation. Company culture is constantly evolving, and so should your recruitment processes. 

Looking for a tool to help you hire top talent around the world? Oyster makes it easy! See how it works here.

About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.

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