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Assessing for Culture Fit During the Interview

Macy Volpe

Marketing Coordinator for Traitify | Baltimore Ravens obsessed and lover of Sharks | Planner/Visionary in Work

Interviews are often small glimpses of the interviewees’ personalities. Emotions are high, anxiety may be creeping in, or they could be playing it too cool to seem as though they have it all together. Knowing all of that, how can you crack the code and make sure you are hiring the very best candidate from the start?

Finding candidates who are a good fit for your culture is as important as filling open positions within your company. When new employees are brought onto the team, ensuring they get along with the rest of the company should be a priority, just like making sure they quickly learn their duties and do their jobs well.

"Creating an engaged workforce begins with the job candidate's first interview," said Anne Papinchak, vice president of business transformation at Lucas Systems. When you go into an interview with an idea of who the candidate is, you will have a better idea of their honesty and engagement during your conversation. We suggest doing this by having the candidate take a personality assessment during the application process. Then, before sitting down to interview someone, you can take a look at which personality traits stand out and which traits may need some help. Being well-prepared is the first step to finding that ideal cultural fit we mentioned.

Start your interview with the basic questions. Why did you apply for this position? Why do you think you can do the job? Do you have previous experience? Then, to assess cultural fit during the quick conversation that occurs, pay attention to these four scenarios as you go deeper into questions related to fit.

Flaunting the yes.

Does the candidate seem to say “yes, I can” to everything that comes up? For example, when you know based on their personality that they aren’t the “Planner” type, yet they are sure they could tackle the messy file-cabinet situation when you ask about it, they might be “flaunting the yes” just to get the job. Their behavior may be a sign that they are nervous or maybe just a people pleaser.

Another way to go about this is to ask whether they are good at saying “no.” Being a team player and taking on extra work when necessary can be a great quality, but if a candidate is not able to find the fine line between being helpful and taking on too much or becoming stressed, they need a role for which that balance is clearly defined.

Ask about their previous fit, not just their previous job.

It’s normal to ask about a candidate's previous employer. But after they discuss where they worked, also ask about how they liked it, why they did or did not, and whether they became friends with any of their coworkers. Does their previous experience sound like a good fit for your company? Be mindful of canned responses, and dig deeper to find out more about their interactions with coworkers.

Defining the why.

Why does the candidate want to work for your company, and why do they want to do this job every day? These are two separate points that will show the bigger picture. If they say the company is a good match, it’s time to find out what stuck out before they applied. Were they intrigued by the benefits, location, hours, or something else? Did they get the idea that they would get along with the team you currently have on board?

When you get to the position itself, focus on the idea that “if you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life.” You want someone who looks at the position as more than a paycheck, but as something they would enjoy doing. This can help determine a good fit now and avoid burnout in the future. What about this position was appealing? Is it something they have experience in or something they think they can do? What makes them believe this job will be enjoyable.

Ask about their ideal work environment.

Because you are looking specifically for an employee who will fit with your company, why not ask directly about their ideal company. In what environment are they most productive and happy? Watch for their emotions as they describe the situation they are explaining. Ask about the best way to communicate with them, the most effective management style they’ve encountered and the role they usually play on a team. All of these answers will help shape what they believe is their the best fit.

To make sure your team stays on the same page and working together, keep in mind how applicants will fit in with longtime employees. Considering the culture of the company as a whole gives you a great start when it comes to hiring new team members. Start with their personality, then find out more during the interview.

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