Learn how the employee recruitment process is changing, as more companies focus on a job candidate’s adaptability in the workplace

pierre-bamin-WBCefg9hYo4-unsplash“What makes you a good fit for our company?”

The question is a part of job interviews around the world. But maybe a better interview question is not a question at all.

“Give me three examples of how you have adapted to change in the workplace.”

According to the Harvard Business Review, hiring job candidates based on the sharing of similar cultural values is an effective strategy to improve retention rates. However, finding employees that make a cultural fit is less important for determining the performance of an organization.

Instead, adaptability in the workplace is what the recruiters in your human resources department should measure when conducting interviews.

What Does Cultural Fit Mean?

Cultural fit is a recruitment concept that analyzes the interaction of value, beliefs and behaviors between employers and job candidates. Recruiting job candidates that make a seamless cultural fit produces several benefits.

Improved Retention Rate

Employees that do not fit into the culture of a company tend to leave the organization to find a better fit. Since employee turnover is costly for businesses of all sizes, recruiting job candidates that make a cultural fit saves a company money. Less unnecessary spending for recruiting and training, as well as an increase in productivity, all make a positive contribution to your organization’s bottom line.

Attract the Best Talent

The key is for recruiters to explain what a job candidate can expect when working for their companies. If a talented job candidate senses a disconnect in terms of values, beliefs and behaviors, they might decline a job offer.

Positive Workplace

Employee morale gets a boost when a company hires job candidates that share the same workplace values as that of existing employees. A boost in morale often leads to better employee engagement, which aligns with an organization’s goals and values. High morale also can motivate employees to do more in less time.

In spite of these compelling benefits, finding candidates that make the right cultural fit has one significant downside: Lack of diversity. If a recruiter has affinity bias when screening candidates for an opening, the company might end up with a monolithic workforce. For example, a young recruiter might not consider older job candidates because they relate more to younger ones.

What Does Adaptability in the Workplace Mean?

Referred to as a soft skill, adaptability in the workplace means an employee rapidly adapts to learning new skills and values in response to change. Employees that adapt to change in the workplace function with a flexible mindset even if things do not go as well as initially planned.

Employees that remain open to change in the workplace help improve productivity. Instead of stressing out over change, flexible employees expend their energy adapting as quickly as possible to it. Resourcefulness demonstrates one of the skills employers look for when developing leaders.

What About Cultural Adaptability?

Cultural adaptability is all about quickly learning and conforming to changing company values. Employees that are adapters remain a tight cultural fit even when company culture changes. Cultural adapters might not align with the cultural values of a company at the time of hire. However, they evolve to match the values, beliefs and behaviors of other employees.

This means cultural fit does not end when a job candidate receives a job offer. A cultural adapter starts to fit in on the first day of work.

Why Adaptability Skills are More Important Than Background

Job candidates that demonstrate strong adaptability skills are more important to an organization than job candidates that appear to make a good cultural fit.

Here’s why:

Ready to Address New Trends

The eagerness to dive into new trends separates employees that possess adaptability skills from those that do not. Employees that have adaptability skills are ready to adapt to the rapid changes in how a company does business.


Adapters are not the kind of employees that state, “My way or the highway.” They receive and process new information to stay on top of changes. Having an open mind also improves problem-solving skills.

Strong Listening Skills

Employees that embrace change are likely to be excellent listeners. This is an important attribute for projects that require extensive collaboration. The ability to listen demonstrates a flexible attitude that can change in perspective. Strong listening skills also involve acknowledging the views of other employees.

Thrive Under Pressure

Meeting tight deadlines can either bring out the best or the worst in employees. Adapters thrive when they work under pressure or have to handle an incredibly large workload. Their backgrounds might not initially fit in with an organization. Nonetheless, the willingness to assume more workload negates the background issue.

Don’t Discount the Cultural Misfits

One reason why some companies struggle with recruiting top talent is that they eliminate job candidates that do not make the right cultural fit. This is a mistake because it violates the principles of diversity.

Employees that see the business world in a different light can help a company grow. Although there might be a cultural disconnect, cultural misfits can serve as an idea bridge between one or more different viewpoints. They also serve as a cultural bridge between other cultural outsiders and the rest of a company’s employees.

The Impact on Human Resources

Companies that want to give adaptability a more prominent role should start with changing the recruitment process. A new approach to asking interview questions is a good place to start. A recruiter should stop asking “What makes you a good fit for our company?” Workplace situation questions should replace traditional questions about where job candidates have lived and worked.

One indicator of a job candidate’s adaptability concerns working in different departments for the same company. The ability to seamlessly fulfill different job demands is a positive sign that a candidate possesses adaptability skills in the workplace.

If 2020 taught us anything, adaptability in the workplace is an essential skill for job candidates to bring to the interview table.