How to Hire for a Cultural Fit

How to Hire for a Cultural Fit feature image

In many competitive industries, it can become the norm to hire those who seem most willing to give up on work-life balance for the company. More and more companies are realizing this can create major issues: a star team member may suddenly get burnt out and quit or simply become ill, and those who do good work but need rest feel excluded and undervalued.

Hiring someone who is ready for a culture that values good work-life balance can be difficult as well. One of the ways that you may be able to identify the right-fit hires is to view their answers during an interview through the lens of your company's corporate culture. Here are seven steps to make sure you and your potential employees are both on the same page about culture fit.

1. Put your culture's values into clear language.

While "good work-life balance" is a great start when it comes to defining what sets your company apart, it is best to get even more granular. Does your culture value relaxed, casual interaction as well, or is it a fairly intense, fast-paced workplace? Do you offer flexible hours, flexible work weeks, or some other form of flexibility? How do you ideally handle issues with productivity or with overwork? These answers help you to say who you are as a company and what matters to you, since different industries and companies may have widely differing styles even if they all value a flexible or shorter work week. One way to work on this language is to explore Key Values, where you can see just a few of the many ways one might describe your company priorities and culture.

2. Ask about their past work environments.

When you bring in a candidate for an interview, each question can do double duty: it can do the many traditional jobs of interviews (getting a holistic view of whether they can do the job well), but it can also give you a clue as to how they might react to a flexible workplace that values work-life balance. This first question, where you ask them to tell you about their past work environments, can be a good opener. It allows them to start without emphasizing values, just stating whether they've been in, say, fast-paced fields where everyone works late constantly, or if they've usually worked in places where everyone goes home on time consistently, etc.

Once they've made these descriptions, use some aspect of this answer to segue into your own corporate culture: "You mentioned that there was an emphasis at your last workplace on being able to come in at a flexible hour in the morning; we definitely also value flexibility and work-life balance here, in the following ways..."

3. Ask about a time when they had to manage stress and deadlines.

It can be particularly telling to hear how an individual handles stress and deadlines and what their game plan for it is. If the way they describe the experience implies that they believe they must simply work overtime until something is done, there could be some culture shock if that isn't how your office works. Use this question to gauge where they are coming from and then describe how stress and deadlines tend to work in your office. Most offices with a work-life balance focus will have a clear procedure for evaluating when something is truly urgent or not, and these policies can help to educate your candidates on what they might be getting into.

4. Ask them to talk about three things that are most important to them in the workplace.

Corporate values and employee values matter. While values like "perseverance," "tenacity," and "focus on results" can all be positive, it is important to listen to whether the candidate has grown to privilege workplace success above all else. You can share the three things that are most important to your company in its corporate culture as well, and see how they align.

5. Ask about their role in collaborative projects.

Collaborative projects can sometimes be a source of concern, since individuals who feel too burdened by the weight of the project may choose overwork rather than true reliance on coworkers. The interview is a good time to evaluate how this individual works in a team simply because group dynamics are essential in many work environments, but it can also be a telling conversation about whether this individual will be able to prioritize work during work time and leisure during leisure time, rather than taking on a co-worker's responsibilities.

6. Discuss areas of growth for them.

Many interviews have a question about weaknesses; there are times when there can be productive answers from this question, but it can be hard to answer without just trying to please the interviewer. Instead, consider what they claim as areas where they wish to grow and skills where they can become more proficient if they step into this new role. Mentioning perfectionism, workaholism, or being controlling may all indicate that someone may have trouble in a flexible environment, but it is really an opportunity to dig deeper, asking them how they want to grow. Being self-aware and trying to get out of a culture of constant work may actually be a sign that a person is a good culture fit for you.

7. Pay attention to connections between interviews and culture results.

While it will take a while to see meaningful patterns, start taking notes from interviews and connecting them in some way to employee files. You want to be able to notice which kinds of values expressed in interviews are correlated with thriving in your particular company culture. While there is no magic bullet, this correlation can help you refine your own description of the culture and characterization of what kinds of people thrive in your environment. You want a company culture description to remain fluid and changeable, since adding new people to your company may help you realize a change in culture that actually benefits everyone in the company.

Nicholas Rempel

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