3 Tips on How to Hire for Cultural Fit

Have you ever interviewed someone who seemed like the perfect fit for the job on paper but during the interview, you just didn’t have the “feeling” with them? Maybe the candidate did everything right during the hiring process but your gut was telling you that something was off?

Well, your gut was probably right and the lack of “feeling” you had, was due to a missing cultural fit.

Cultural fit is key in your hiring process. If the newbie doesn’t share the same values with your organization or feel comfortable in your culture, it will be hard for them to do ther best work, which in turn will cost your organization money and other resources. Cultural fit can be even more important than the candidate’s current skills because most skills can be developed in the job while matching values cannot.

Hiring for cultural fit can be extremely difficult, especially if the people involved in your hiring process rely on their gut feeling rather than facts. This guide’s purpose is to help you evaluate objectively if the candidate fits in your culture rather than counting on subjective opinions. And hey, I know that you’re super busy which is why these three tips are super easy and quick to implement.

1) Ask Value-Based Interview Questions

Hiring for cultural fit doesn’t mean hiring people who are exact copies of each other. The lack of different perspectives and personalities can actually harm your organization’s ability to innovate and adapt to change. Instead, hiring for cultural fit means that you get on board people who come from diverse backgrounds but share the same values. These values determine the way we behave: work with others, make decisions, act in difficult situations, and so on.

In order to evaluate if the candidate’s values fit your culture, you need to develop interview questions that are based on your core values. To make sure that you get genuine answers, don’t ask the candidate directly if they possess a certain quality but rather translate your core values into behavioral interview questions. For instance, if learning mindset is one of your core values, don’t ask the candidate if they like learning new things. 10 out of 10 candidates are going to answers “yes”. Instead, develop 2-4 interview questions that focus on evaluating the candidate’s learning mindset through their behavior. For example:

  • Tell me about the last time you learned something new? How did you go about learning it? What was difficult about learning it?

  • Tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work. How did you make sure that the same mistake wouldn’t happen again?

  • How do you keep up with the trends in your industry?

Asking questions that require the candidate to describe their behavior rather than simply answer “yes” or “no”, will give you a deeper, and more honest, understanding of their values.

2) Observe How They Interact with Others

In addition to evaluating the candidate in a one-on-one interview, observing how they interact with others will provide you with more information on their behavior and the values that the behavior reflects. Consider including a group dynamics into your hiring process. Invite a group of candidates to attend the dynamics and then give them a task to solve together. Observe how the candidates interact with each other, who assumes the leader’s role, and how they act under pressure. You will be surprised how much you will learn just by observing their behavior.

Furthermore, extend your observation into situations where the candidate doesn’t think that they are being evaluated. For example, the online shoe retailer Zappos pays attention to how the potential candidates treat the shuttle bus driver who brings them from the airport to the company headquarters for an interview. Zappos values respect between coworkers, and if the candidate treats the shuttle driver poorly, they don’t get hired – even if the interview went well. So if you want employees who treat others with respect, check in after the interview with the receptionist or your secretary how the candidate behaved with them.

3) Involve Your Team in the Hiring Decision

Finally, ask for your team’s opinion before making the final hiring decision. You can create a more informal opportunity for the candidate to meet their possible future teammates, such as a lunch or even a happy hour or a dinner. The situation should be relaxed and encourage the candidate to interact with your team in a less official setting. By involving other people in the hiring process, you secure that your personal bias doesn’t affect the final decision. In some companies, like Google (see How Google Works by Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg, with Alan Eagle), the hiring decision is never made by one person but rather by a hiring committee in order to secure an objective, fact-based decision.

Cultural fit is EVERYTHING when it comes to workplace happiness. The three easy tips described in this guide will help you evaluate the cultural fit in an objective and non-biased way. Do you have any other ways evaluating if the potential candidate will fit into your culture? Let us know in the comment section below!


12 thoughts on “3 Tips on How to Hire for Cultural Fit

    1. Glad you liked the article! I totally agree about the importance of the cultural fit. And unlike skills, matching culture and values cannot be learned after the new hire start in the job. -Anni


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