Interviewing for the Cultural Fit

93132544Many job interviews focus on a candidate’s job skills and experience. But it’s also important to assess whether a person is a good match for the company’s culture.

Matching a candidate to your culture goes a long way in finding a lasting employee who will fit with your company’s unique work environment.

So evaluating and understanding “culture fit” is key to choosing the right candidate. Also, learning how a candidate behaves in the workplace can help paint a picture about how he or she reacts in certain situations.

If you are hiring for a workplace that has a strong focus on core values, make sure to incorporate those values as a foundation for your hiring process. Here are three ideas for how to do that:

  1. Include your values in your application process. Give a brief explanation of your values and ask candidates to explain how they align to one or more of those values. Focus on actual stories/experiences as you would in a behavioral interview.Keep in mind that a candidate who aligns to your values but doesn’t have all of the right skills can be trained, if you choose to do so. But a bad culture fit can’t be resolved through training.Although they may be productive, employees who are a bad cultural fit can be a huge detriment to your company.One note of caution with behavioral assessment: behaviors exhibited in the past may not be what you see going forward if you don’t have the right cultural match.  So ask interviewees about the type of environment they worked in for past jobs. That means not just asking about what they did but about the type of environment they most prefer.

    If they were successful in an environment different than what they’re entering, their past success might not translate.

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  1. After they’re hired, include your values in your onboarding process. Explain their importance on the first day and reinforce them every day. Living values requires daily attention. If your values are just a poster on the wall, people will not realize their full benefit. Continue to emphasize and review them on a regular basis.
  2. Include your values in your performance review process and make sure employees know this will be part of it. Fulfilling the duties of the job is only one aspect of performance.  The review process should highlight success around living values and also provide coaching around opportunities for improvement.Habits are formed over time. Without incorporating your values in performance reviews and compensation plans, bad habits inconsistent with your values can form.

Determining culture match is not easy. But including it in your hiring process is your first step toward building a strong culture that contributes to long-term success.

MORE: Improving employee morale starts with communication

Rob Sable
Rob Sable is chief information officer of Alliance Solutions Group.

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1 comments
Tom_Gimbel
Tom_Gimbel

I couldn't agree more, Rob. The key is to hire for personality and culture fit rather than a skillset. Any employee can be a star performer. Key words can be. Do you see traits in the candidate that can produce an accelerator in two, four, six years? It’s not all about skills and education. It’s about what drives them, their ability to self-evaluate, their sense of right and wrong, and ultimately their willingness to challenge the status quo. Their skills may not be anywhere near developed, but can they develop? Consider what’s on their resume as indicators of what they can help the company accomplish in the future. However, in using this technique, entrepreneurs have to be willing to invest the time to train and develop them with the appropriate skillset for the job.


Another tip is to ask “unconventional” questions during the interview.These questions are meant to catch the candidate off guard and gauge how they handle uncomfortable situations, and I’ve found that it helps decrease hiring mistakes and ensures that candidates fit with and understand the company culture.


I share more on this topic on my blog here: http://pastfive.typepad.com/pastfive/2013/03/journey-of-an-entrepreneur-.html 

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