Clearing the Smoke: When a challenging culture makes it hard to hire

*This post follows up from my previous post Smoke & Mirrors: 3 ways to see a job clearly during the interview process

“If we told every candidate what it was really like to work here, no one would accept our offer.”

Did you just say that out loud?

If you’ve ever found yourself in a company where these sentiments ran through your mind, you know there are bigger problems ahead when trying to hire. You can’t attract the best and brightest talent if new hires are walking into a dysfunctional – or worse, toxic – environment.

Let’s be realistic, your position in the hierarchy and influence chain of a company will determine your ability to affect real change to make a sentiment like this go away. But there are some things you can do when hiring someone to join your team to help them be successful in a challenging environment.

Be honest: When things aren’t perfect, and they rarely are, create a narrative that is honest, but still positive about the organization. Negative or critical talk is definitely a turn off for everyone. Instead talk about how you are working through the challenges. What changes are happening? What pushback is real? How is leadership working toward solutions? It’s not about sugar coating the truth, but you still have to attract the type of person who loves a tough problem to solve. You’ll weed out the ones who won’t have the stomach for it and you’ll bring on game-changers who see opportunity.

Understand what success looks like: Every client we work with is required to work through our “Success Profile” process so everyone (recruiter, employer and candidate) is clear on expectations. This makes all the difference in the world! If you are the hiring leader and can’t articulate what success looks like in 90 days, six months and one year, how can anyone join your team and be successful? By thinking through the details of what you want the person to be able to deliver and accomplish in these time frames, you will have a better framework for interviewing, evaluating and selecting the right person for the job. On top of that, the candidate will walk in with eyes wide open on what’s expected from day one.

Check in early and often: If you know your culture is on a bumpy path at the moment, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have regular check in meetings with your new team members. Talk through the challenges. Solve problems together. When the whole team is pushing through the murky times together, you are more likely to create the change needed for long term success.