• Negin Safdari

Dear Artemis: Can we compromise on “culture-fit” when our teams work remotely?

Updated: Feb 1

Welcome back to Dear Artemis: Where you ask us tough questions and we use our collective 45+ years of knowledge in the recruiting space to answer them.


Dear Artemis,


Like everyone, we’re desperate to find top talent and the competition is intense. Lately, we’ve wondered… it is worth holding out for the ‘right fit’ - or can we compromise on “culture-fit” when our teams work remotely and the new hire won’t be part of a physical workplace?


Director Operations @ B2B SaaS company



Dear Director of Operations,


It sounds like you’re asking: Do desperate times call for desperate measures? The short answer is no. The long answer is this:


Sure, you likely need to compromise and hire candidates who don’t meet your perfect candidate profile - but only if you can close the gap with training or coaching. For example, if you hire a sales leader with a health-tech background but your organization sells a MarTech solution, you need to train your sales leader in the new competitive environment and bring them up to speed on the business metrics. It might take some time, but that’s straightforward and simple enough. The gap is knowledge.


When it comes to culture and values, ask yourself: Are the gaps coachable? (hint: values misalignment is NOT a coachable gap!)


If you’re on the fence about a candidate’s culture fit/add to your organization, try asking yourself Will this person be an ‘impact player’?* Will they make an environment that allows the broader team to contribute in bigger ways?


* Liz Wiseman coined the term impact player which is someone who makes everyone better and raises “the level of play” in a healthy, safe way. They’re open, flexible, curious, ready to make adjustments and they make work light & easier for everyone. You can listen to the full podcast with Brené Brown here.


And we know that assessing culture fit is hard - it’s not quantifiable, and it takes time which is scarce when candidates are off the market so quickly. We’ve had clients implement creative interview exercises over Slack. They add candidates into a Slack or Teams channel and work through an exercise asynchronously to get a feel for what it would be like to work together, collaborate, provide and receive feedback in the real-life remote, asynchronous environment.


Don’t make the mistake that a remote team has no defined ‘workplace’ and therefore culture doesn’t exist or is less important. Remember that culture was never about your snacks or office furniture or the atmosphere in the lunchroom. As our teams move to remote, our culture shifts but the values that we share and that guide our work decisions and team dynamics remain critical.


As a hiring team, it’s your responsibility to be intentional about your remote working environment. Be clear on expectations - are quick Slack huddles the default when your team needs to solve a problem, or do they tend to schedule Zoom meetings? Phone-calls? Text-only conversations? Emails? Meeting-free Wednesdays? By explicitly stating your remote working expectations and culture with candidates, you give them a chance to graciously bow out if it’s not a good fit. They know themselves better than you do, right?


And yes - being intentional and explicit about your remote working culture means you have to know what your remote culture is in the first place. If you don’t know, start there. Reflect on what behaviours and attributes fit well with your culture, and which ones don’t. But even when you are desperate for help, you can't cut a corner on culture just because you are not in-office. The values mismatch will still show up - in how teams are managed, how clients are handled and how your business is built. And in fact, when everyone is remote, the danger of a culture mismatch might be greater - as it could be invisible until it is too late and the remedy is lengthy and expensive.


Let us know what you think: Did we miss a question? Do you have any other ideas? We’d love to hear from you.


Until next time,

The Artemis Team