Pixel-Shot - stock.adobe.com

Finnish recruiter says cultural fit is the key ingredient for executive positions

Job skills are important, but a good match of personality traits is a better predictor of long-term success in a company

Mika Rossi is managing partner with Momentous, a Finnish HR consulting company working on about 200 executive search projects a year, 25% of which are in IT. One of the most important aspects of the firm’s work is to administer psychological assessments of candidates to compare them to the culture of the hiring companies. 

Momentous uses tests from professional psychologists to assess about 2,500 candidates a year. The company also conducts some coaching, and will offer some HR advice to client companies. It recruits only executives – senior management positions and above. It recruits for all industries, and technology plays a role in about 25% of its projects.  

“In the last year, just after the worst of Covid, our business went way up,” Rossi told Computer Weekly. “Now it has stabilised – but we are still doing very well as a business.”

One of the trends Rossi has noticed stems from global inflation. “I noticed around August last year that that salary requests from candidates were up by 10 or 15%,” he said. “But because some of the big companies have global salary ranges, HR departments have trouble responding favourably to those requests.”

Tech jobs sometimes require very specific competencies – often coming down to the right blend of tech skills and domain-related skills. For example, in some cases, jobs require IT talent mixed with marketing knowledge, or even knowledge of a very specific marketing package. These positions are always hard to fill, and it is getting even harder as the supply side dries up. 

But companies aren’t hiring everyone who walks through the door. Three years ago, if somebody in Finland said they knew artificial intelligence (AI), they were given an offer immediately. Now companies are looking more into what is behind that kind of claim. What exactly do they know? 

“Out of 200 IT-related jobs, there may be 10 that require some kind of knowledge of AI,” said Rossi. “Most of those activities are still in very small companies. The big companies in Finland let the smaller companies experiment with new things. Then, if the big companies see a startup doing something cool, they buy it.”

Finland’s education system is not putting out enough skilled people, said Rossi, and he doesn’t think the problem can be solved by changing the school system. “We lack tens of thousands of people,” he said. “We can only make up for that shortage through immigration.”

But getting people who want to come and live in a cold climate like Finland is a challenge. And when candidates decide to come, they have to go through complex immigration paperwork, which is invariably frustrating. 

Read more about recruitment in the Nordics

Companies in Finland are slowly accepting remote work arrangements, according to Rossi. Mid-sized companies are on board with this new approach and have made changes to embrace remote work, but the big global players are still reluctant. They might allow one day a week remote working, but it is harder for them to accept having staff work remotely full-time. 

“I expect several things to happen in the high-tech job market in the near- to mid-term,” said Rossi. “One is that the bigger salary requests will continue and even increase. I have also seen what I call ‘rock star lists’. Rock groups like the Rolling Stones have lists of demands for what they want backstage, including things as specific as peanut butter sandwiches or M&Ms.

“I’ve seen candidates come up with their own lists, demanding certain kinds of coffee or making unusual vacation requests, for example. That might work now, but it won’t take long for it to start backfiring on them. Companies want the talent, but they also want somebody who demonstrates a capacity to give and not just take.”

Rossi added: “This trend came after Covid. I think there are studies on what drives the phenomenon. When people were confined, they asked themselves a lot of questions about what is important in life. And now any given candidate is getting approached by all the headhunters, so they sense the demand and they become very individualistic in their thinking. Maybe in the future, sociologists will look back and study this period and come up with explanation for how we changed.”  

Importance of cultural fits 

Many companies profess to having a certain culture and to encourage diversity. “But they have to live it,” said Rossi. “The candidates can sense if you are just talking and not really living the culture.

“You can’t win just by raising the salaries. It’s the cultural fit that counts most. There are tools to help you measure people’s personalities. We also analyse the culture of the client. If there is a good cultural fit, there is a good chance for a long career with the company. If there is not a good cultural fit, then usually the candidate is out in a year or two.

“In our small company, we have specialists. Every time we hire, we take a deep dive to assess the cultural fit. You don’t have to be the best candidate, but you must be the most suitable.”  

Rossi advises job-seekers to be humble. But they should be self-confident at the same time, and they should know what they want in life over the mid-term. 

“Try not to change jobs too much,” he said. “If you change every eight months, it shows a pattern of not being able to develop work relationships. It used to be normal to leave every four to 10 years – now it’s three years. Anything less than that raises questions.

“I think the cultural fit will be the most important thing in the coming years. Our clients ask us to send them people who are likely to be a good cultural fit.”

Momentous looks for cultural fits by measuring candidates on scales along eight dimensions, including whether they are individual-oriented or group-oriented, and whether they are informal or formal. There are no right answers. The point is to match the candidate to the company. 

Read more on IT technical skills

Data Center
Data Management