5 Ways to Drive Company Culture Through Recruiting

When people around you wax nostalgic about the heyday of 1980s movies, what flashes through your mind? Scenes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or The Shining? How about Back to the Future or E.T.? None of the above? Regardless, we’re willing to make one assumption: you’re not thinking about all the recruiting takeaways each movie holds.

Well, if you ask talent acquisition leaders Jason Seiden and Ed Nathanson, many 1980’s films deliver one recruiting lesson in particular: Your hiring decisions shape your company trajectory. Still, knowing that you have that power as a recruiter isn’t enough. How exactly do you make the right choices to drive your company culture? Below, we recapped 5 surefire tips that Ed and Jason shared during our webinar, along with the 1980s movies they used to make their case.

1. Caddyshack (1980): The story of a country club caddy, a fringe character who controls the destiny of the movie’s final golf tournament. 

Recruiting Lesson: Recognize that anyone can change your company trajectory.

No matter who you hire – whether they are an executive or entry-level employee – they have the power to significantly impact your company culture,” says Ed. Intuitively, you know that their work will contribute to your team’s success, but don’t underestimate the effect that their attitude can have on your company morale. Negative and apathetic employees, for example, can create a toxic company environment. Measure cultural alignment in your interview process so that you hire employees who will support each other and your team’s ultimate success.

2. Heathers (1988): The classic tale of high school mean girls who want to “fit the bill” so badly that they all go by the name “Heather”. 

Recruiting Lesson: Don’t try to make your culture perfect.

It’s easy to think: Recruiting drives culture, so we better make our process flawless.The truth is, however, that when you pay too much attention to your company’s image, you decrease your chances of attracting the right talent to your team. If you offer candidates endless perks during their interview process, for example, you’re likely to attract employees who deeply value those perks, perhaps more than their day-to-day responsibilities or their team’s working style. Or, if you falsely portray your team as structured when it’s actually much more undefined, you’ll attract employees who prefer that structure. “Realize that when you sell this perfect and polished image of your company, you will attract people who want to be perfect and polished,” warns Jason.

3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982): The story of a friendship between an alien and young boy, who find common ground in caring for one another. 

Recruiting Lesson: Connect with candidates in a deeper, more meaningful way.

“We’re all looking for a little touch,” says Ed.It’s all about connecting with people on a level that goes beyond salary, compensation, and benefits.” In E.T., the boy and E.T. are able to rally behind a common mission (keeping E.T. safe) because they develop an unbreakable bond first. Similarly, you’lll engage candidates in your company mission when you form a connection with them and foster meaningful relationships with other team members. At the end of the day, your candidate is likely going to spend more time with their coworkers than their family. So when you, as a recruiter, work to drive an amazing culture, show candidates why they should want to spend all of that time with your team in particular. Talk to them about more than the logistics of their role; ask them about their working style and even their interests outside of work.

4. This is Spinal Tap ( 1984): The mockumentary about a fictional band that invigorates their career when they leave the U.S. to go on tour in Japan.

Recruiting Lesson: Channel your recruiting efforts in different places. 

At the end of This is Spinal Tap, the band considers retirement as their concert appearances are repeatedly cancelled and they’re rescheduled into smaller and smaller venues. In the United States, their careers go nowhere. The last scene of the movie shows them performing to a raucous crowd in Japan, however, because they ultimately decide to focus their efforts on the fan base that enjoys their music.

“As a recruiter, go where the action is,” advises Jason. “We all get into our habits, but to hire the best, you have to think outside the box.” While it may be tempting to pursue the candidates that match your typical, ideal profile, that strategy will not always work. If you can’t successfully recruit candidates in one market, find another one. The best candidates are not always where you’ve historically discovered them.

5. Breakfast Club (1985): The story of five teenagers – from different highschool cliques – who spend the day together in detention. Eventually, they come together to make a powerful stand. 

Recruiting Lesson:  Don’t overdo “fit”.

It’s easy to get caught up in hiring candidates who are similar to us, but if the Breakfast Club taught us anything, it’s that different people often work best together . When you focus too heavily on finding “culture fit”, you may create a more homogeneous, stagnant culture.  “Diversity – not just race, religion, and age- but points of view, make an organization fantastic,” says Ed. Working with different people can force you to rethink your entire mindset. What’s one sign of a great manager? Someone who hires candidates who aren’t like them, candidates who will make them pivot. “We all like ourselves,” says Ed. “It’s much harder to manage people who aren’t like you, but they can bring immense value and help your company in powerful ways.”

Huge thanks to Jason and Ed for equipping us with this list of ideas for our next movie marathon! You’ve just inspired a lot of 1980s themed family movie nights this holiday season. More importantly, thank you for finding such a creative way to share your recruiting wisdom with us!

To learn which recruiting lessons are embedded in the 80s movies “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Goonies”, or to hear tips on how to hire the best managers for your team, listen to Jason and Ed nerd out even more in our full webinar.