3 Interview Questions to Ask When Hiring for Culture Fit

If your company has Core Values that you use to define your culture, then hiring people who fit these values is critical. Core values are the essence of your company’s identity and are crucial to your organization’s and employees success. Ensuring a cultural fit increases employee engagement and retention, while reducing costly staff turnover and churn.

Here are 3 questions you can ask to test for cultural alignment, and critical details to increase the probability of making the right hiring decisions.

  • Can you tell me a time when you demonstrated [ X ] core value? (X = one of your company’s values)
  • Can you tell me a time when you didn’t demonstrate [ X ] core value?
  • Ask the candidate’s references the same questions.

Can you tell me a time you clearly demonstrated [ X ] core value?

The first question is fairly common, but given that most interviewees are well prepared and good at thinking on their feet, it’s fairly easy to answer. However, you should always probe deeper for more details.

If a candidate tells you about a time they displayed “drive” in order to achieve a result, ask questions about the potential downsides. For example, “How did that affect other people you worked with?”, “What steps did you take to mitigate any potential negative effects?”, “If you could relive that experience, how would you handle it differently?”

Not only will this test for the authenticity of the answer, but it will also be a good barometer for the depth of awareness an individual has with regards to the impact of their own actions. This insight will also help you understand the potential employee’s beliefs and behaviors when working within your company.

Can you tell me a time you didn’t demonstrate [ X ] core value?

This second question is a good test for self-awareness and more difficult to respond to. I have seen people fumble with their answer, speak for 3 minutes without answering the question directly or turn a negative story into a positive one.

We have all heard someone say their weakness is that they “work too hard.” How people answer this question can be very telling. We recommend not letting interviewees off the hook with these types of answers. For every answer where a negative could be a positive, I would suggest a follow-up question that asks them to be more introspective. For example, “your weakness could be construed as both a negative and a positive, I am looking for a weakness that has no upside. Can you tell what that would be for you?”

This is a much deeper question and interviewees often get a little uncomfortable. However, how they handle this discomfort can also be very telling. It is not so much the answer to the question that you should look for, but how they react to the question
My opinion is that people who lack this self-awareness are going to be hard to coach, will be resistant to change, won’t take feedback constructively, and lack humility. Often times these soft skills are even more important than actual hard skills or industry experience since it will impact their on-the-job behavior.

Asking references “How well did the candidate align with [ X ] core value, and when did they demonstrate and not demonstrate this value?

The third question can be telling as well. References are hesitant to embellish any answer and even a pause in their response can reveal something about an interviewee’s personality that may not have come out previously.

It goes without saying that hiring people who fit your culture is of paramount importance. Using these three simple questions will help you ultimately increase employee retention and reduce the heavy costs of employee turnover and churn.

Want to learn more about how to hire for culture fit? Book a free 30 minute appointment with Andrew and discover why Carpedia has a proven track record with leading enterprise organizations.