As a new founder and hiring a team for the first time, I’ve been grappling with the question of culture fit vs mindset fit vs experience fit. What are the best criteria to use when hiring someone at a high-growth startup?
Based on all my learnings from launching Trumpet, a B2B sales platform, I believe culture fit is hiring people with similar interests, attitudes on life, hobbies, personality dynamics and ways of socialising with others.
In a nutshell, if I put this group of people around a dinner table, would they all be able to relate to each other, chat comfortably and essentially grow a friendship? It’s important to note that this does not mean hiring the exact same people in terms of age, race and background. I think that’s a trap people think they need to fall into when hiring based on ‘culture’.
But is culture fit the right approach for a fast-growing company? Instead of only considering culture fit, I believe that startups should also consider another approach: mindset fit.
What is mindset fit?
Mindset fit sits alongside culture fit but is more focused on what an employee wants from their work and how much they enjoy working to reach their goals. Do they want to grow as fast as the company? Are they willing to take risks? Are they okay with failing and learning? Do they have a passion to improve? Are they a self-starter?
You can have two very similar people from a cultural point of view but they could have very different answers to these questions.
From the employee side, being a cultural fit for the company is extremely important. Company culture is a vital factor for 46% of job seekers, with millennials prioritising ‘people and cultural fit’ above anything else. You’ll see job specs now adding just as much weight to the job itself as to perks and internal culture.
At Trumpet, we have made a notion doc outlining not just company culture but also our values as founders and a company; this is the nice intersection between ‘perks’ and what we actually stand for as people and managers.
All of this comes crumbling down if you solely hire on education and/or previous experience. Of course, for some roles, you need a certain level of experience. But when a university degree or number of years in the job is your only tick box, I think you’re setting yourself up for a fall.
A team will always need to be able to work together and collaboratively to succeed, no matter how talented the individual members are. You can make similar parallels to sports where a winning team is never about having just one superstar – having highly engaged employees can lead to a 202% increase in performance.
Bin university degrees
My two co-founders, Nick Telson and Andrew Webster, decided to deploy the culture and mindset fit above anything else at their previous venture, DesignMyNight.
This led to a team that worked together, socialised together and in some cases even lived together! All were pulling in the same direction, all with the same work hard/play hard attitude and all being able to communicate effectively as teams and move the company forward in a positive direction.
Of course, not every employee wants to socialise constantly or become best friends with their fellow teammates. That’s fine, as long as they don’t bring the rest of the team down or look down on those that are socialising. You get the same in non-work friendship groups anyway – those who want to socialise non-stop and those who want to be more in-and-out.
I’ve come to the deduction that at Trumpet I want a similar concept but putting mindset fit above everything else, followed by culture fit and putting university degrees in the bin.
Can you do the job effectively is a big green tick, but without anything else it’s a no. Our first ten hires need to form a tight bond, be able to give open feedback to each other, disagree with each other and come together at the end, realising that every decision is not based on ego but on what’s best for the company.
My job as co-founder is to hire the right people that fit this mould and create a culture where we can all thrive as one unit.