Culture matters: How 6 Chicago companies make sure new hires fit in

James Risley

When a tech company is just starting out, it’s all about the development of the product. Early employees are often dedicated to building great stuff at a breakneck pace, developing culture organically and on the fly. But as a company grows, the early culture that drove innovation can get diluted if it isn’t nurtured.

We talked to six Chicago companies about how they find employees who embody their culture, making sure new hires fit right in. 

 

CraftJack helps home improvement pros get noticed online. The company connects homeowners in need of help with pros who can get the jobs done.  

Answers from senior corporate recruiter Mark Schaffer.

How they find a culture fit: The culture at CraftJack is driven by its people. We hire smart, driven and passionate people that enjoy working as a team, toward a common goal. To ensure candidates fit this culture, we submerse them within it. From the moment candidate arrive onsite to interview, they can immediately feel the CraftJack culture. When candidates are onsite, we focus on their interactions and body language to see how they enjoy being in the office. Rather than a set of questions to determine fit, we immerse our candidates, first hand.

Characteristics they look for: We look for team players, team attitudes and offer a work life balance. Imagine a startup company minus the risk and long hours. People that enjoy not only their teammates, but the basis of their company’s product, are what help define and keep our culture strong.

 

Chicago-based eshots offers data and management solutions and experiential marketing for the events industry.

Answers from marketing manager Dan Maurer.

How they find a culture fit: eshots is a vibrant, established company located in downtown Chicago with a Silicon Valley startup vibe, and finding great team members is a big part of that.

Our interview strategy is simple — we get to know our next potential hire, understand their priorities, and ask for the top five elements they look for in their next ideal role with a company. Assess if those elements are aligned with what we promote as a company culture. This strategy enables us to learn a lot about the person, their priorities and how they envision their ideal professional life.

Characteristics they look for: We define our company culture through the term “H3S” values (hungry, humble, helper-minded, and wicked smart). Our defining characteristics are:

  1. Having employees know and promote our core values.

  2. No hierarchy; good decisions can come from anywhere and any department.

  3. Team performance over individual performance.

 

NextCapital builds financial software to help everyday investors manage their portfolios. The company works with financial institutions to provide financial advice with superior user experiences.

Answers from NextCapital employee experience manager Sloane Larson-Shidler.

How they find a culture fit: At NextCapital, we are pushing the boundaries of traditional financial planning with the software we provide and our unique, laid-back culture. Our culture is focused on collaborating efforts and creative ideas to provide the best product possible for our partners, while also having fun along the way. We start each onsite interview with an informal session where we discuss our company culture, the fintech market, our business model, and provide a demo of our product. This informal interview helps us identify culture fit. We also have different people throughout the company take candidates out to lunch to get to know them better, outside of the usual technical interview.

Characteristics they look for: We look for candidates who have a passion for learning and challenging themselves. Strong abstract thinkers do very well here and candidates who have come from a software background usually have less of a learning curve while onboarding. Overall, we look for creative people who have a strong interest in software development and/or financial advice and are looking to make a positive impact in other people's lives.

 

The team at bswift builds cloud-based tech that streamlines benefits, payroll and HR services. As the world of healthcare and benefits grows more complex, the company is prepared to serve employees in any industry.

Answers from bswift communications and engagement strategist Ian Helms.

How they find a culture fit: At bswift we live and breathe our values of “higher standards, greater accountability and more fun.” Hiring the right candidate involves finding “51 percenters,” whose skills are 49 percent technical and 51 percent emotional — a concept borrowed from Danny Meyer’s “hospitality quotient” as outlined in his book Setting the Table. As part of the recruiting process, teams often send an equivalent-level team member as a representative to interview prospective candidates from a culture fit perspective, as well.

Characteristics they look for: It’s cliché, but like most tech companies we operate on a work hard, play hard mentality. There’s no lack of work to be done at bswift, but when a break is needed, there are more than 400 others in our office to stop and play ping pong, foosball or arcade games with. We also love to break up the weeks with things like spa days, cooking competitions, happy hours and pop-up events throughout the year.

 

LiveWatch is a home security company that puts customers in control. The DIY system is smartphone controlled and smart-home integrated, with “Plug and Protect” simplicity.

Answers from LiveWatch marketing content specialist Tommy Carroll.

How they find a culture fit: When hiring, we always administer a [Predictive Index] test and we focus our questions on understanding candidates’ natural problem-solving abilities. We are looking for entrepreneurial sales people who will treat their leads like clients of their own small business. The best candidates for our company will be those who easily adapt to seeing the company's challenges as their own.

Characteristics they look for: Our culture is founded on loyalty, discipline and entrepreneurship. We are a group of natural problem solvers and constantly push ourselves to err on the side of over-communication as a team. We privilege dedication and self-improvement over traditional ideas of seniority.

 

One North Interactive is a digital agency helping brands plan for the future, manage relationships and develop experiences. The team includes everyone from designers and account managers to strategists and technologists.

Answers from One North talent development manager Sarah Mueller.

How they find a culture fit: We know that culture is incredibly important to our employees, business and success. At our core, we are a team that thrives in an ever-changing, fast-paced and collaborative environment. We look for people who hold themselves accountable for high-quality work, while being driven by the opportunity to shape the way our business evolves and scales. We also find that the people who raise their hands, put forth a new idea, create new roles or opportunities, are the folks that thrive here.

Now, just because we are driven, doesn’t mean we don’t have fun. We also have two kegs, wine tastings, ping pong tournaments, bake sales to support nonprofit charities, Formal Fridays (don’t ask), a cool office space and lots of other perks. We view these activities as the icing on the cake.

Characteristics they look for: As we scale, we want to make sure we keep the high-performing, relationship-driven and light-hearted environment. We want people to feel like they are genuinely part of something here and that we’ve known them for years. Through collaborative efforts or day-to-day interactions, we speak candidly, we push each other to do the best work, we drop everything to answer a question or support each other, and we keep a high level of energy flowing. Working here is not a walk in the park. We know that. We have high standards that we hold ourselves to. Team members who thrive here work hard, push themselves and their team, maintain a high standard of quality and are eager to find the next best way of doing something. Someone who is a culture fit at One North is motivated by and thrives in an environment where you see your direct impact on our clients and our business.

Even though we maintain a high level of professionalism, we’re generally casual and laid back with each other. You will find people poking fun at our founders during our bi-weekly All Company “meetings” and dropping everything they are doing for daily 3 p.m. plank club. No matter how big we get, we’ll never lose the things that make this place special.

 

Images via featured companies

What’s your company culture like? Let us know with a tip or a tweet @BuiltInChicago

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