8 Questions About Hiring People That Fit Company Culture

By Sean Abbas on November 1, 2013

When hiring people it’s no longer enough to determine if someone can do a job.  You need to determine if a person will fit with your core values and company culture.  Here are answers to 8 of the most common questions we get about interviewing and hiring people that fit company culture.

1.  How has the hiring/firing process changing in recent years?

With Threads, we are starting to see the lights go on for companies everywhere. People are now starting to hire more with culture in mind.  Most managers we meet with say that they rarely have to fire a person because they can’t do a job.  Rather, they end up having to terminate people because they don’t fit the culture of the organization or don’t work with the company’s values in mind.  Terminating an employee is terribly expensive and it represents a failure of your hiring process.  If the number one reason people don’t work out is the lack of cultural fit, it’s time people start putting their values and culture in to their hiring process.


2.  What are the most important questions an employer should ask a candidate?

First off, if you are asking potential new hires questions like: “Are you a self-starter?” you need to stop.  Companies have to realize that there are 1,000’s of websites and articles coaching candidates what they “should say” in order to get hired.  Basically, many applicants are good at telling the company what they want to hear.  Companies should come up with situational interview questions based on their core values.

We would recommend picking out real world situations that you experience in your company on a regular basis.  Then identify the right and wrong responses to those situations based on your core values and your company culture.

Build your interview questions around those situations.  When you make your interview questions unique to your organization and experiences, candidates won’t have a prepared answer and you will get an honest response. Here is an example from the Threads software.  If one of your values is Initiative, then ask candidates questions about this core value to see if they have it.


3.  In screening, what jumps out as a “must-have” quality? Can you think of anything, other than obvious blunders, that an employer might use to eliminate a candidate?

Outside of specific experience and qualifications, the obvious “must have” is cultural fit.  Typically, companies can learn about a candidate’s experience and qualifications by reviewing a resume and application; you can even dig a little deeper on a phone interview if needed.  When it comes down to the actual in-person interview, organizations should mainly be focused on cultural fit.  The truth is, both the employee and company will be unsatisfied with any position, regardless of qualifications, if they do not see eye to eye when it comes to core values and culture.

4.  Is there a one-size-fits-all formula for finding good candidates?

I don’t think that there is.  Every organization is different. Culture and values are unique every place we go, even for companies in the same industry.  Good candidates come from all walks of life.  We have hired employees with very little real experience and incoming knowledge about the specific position.  With training they have been terrific. The key for us making the decision was the candidate’s attitude and alignment with our core values.   We need to be placing core values on the same level with education and experience.  Most companies are good at assessing experience, but when you add core values to hiring process, that’s when you can really start hiring for culture.


5.  There are a wide variety of methods people try for finding good employees.  Should employers be more focused in their searches?

In tight labor markets you’re going to see a little bit of everything, even signs on the side of the road. The key is being in places where the kinds of people you are looking for might be. From there, the due diligence process of identifying the right individual goes back to your interview and selection process.  I’ve seen a successful organization give their managers and supervisors cards to hand out to people they run into in everyday life.  The cards guarantee the person an interview.  Essentially, this company is looking for people who provide great service, or go the extra mile to set them apart.  They have used this process to hire some really great employees.

6.  What is your advice for employers to put on their best face? What are the big do’s and don’ts for companies when interviewing candidates?

The best thing an organization can do is be itself.  Be honest about who you are as a company and what your expectations will be.  Make sure interviewers clearly understand your values and culture, and that you are asking the kinds of questions necessary to determine the best fit for the organization.  If you are doing online searches for interview questions, you need to understand that there are websites coaching candidates on how to answer those questions.  Building interview questions unique to your organization and the things that you experience is one of the keys to giving applicants an accurate picture of what’s important to your organization.

7.  How up-front should employers be about compensation? A lot of job openings say salary is “negotiable” but most, if not all employers already have a set salary range in mind.

I think what employers are really saying with the “negotiable” terminology is that for the right person, the right fit, they might stretch a little bit with the salary.  Either that, or they are a little unsure of the market for the position they are hiring for.  At the end of the day, people want to be compensated fairly, but most studies show that pay is way down the list for what the best candidates are looking for.  At the top of the list is good company culture and a great place to work.  That is followed closely by opportunities to learn and grow.  Wages need to be competitive and are always a key part of the discussion, but they are not the end all.  If pay is the main concern for a person, I’d personally be leery of the candidate.

8.  How important is it to bring potential co-workers of the candidate  into the interview process?

I think that a diverse interview team is a good thing. It’s important that everyone is trained and well versed in the do’s and don’ts of interviewing.  Always select interviewers that are good contributors to your culture regardless of their level in your organization.  They will be the best at determining who will be a good fit with your team.

Outside of that, a variety of personalities and viewpoints is a good thing. Having a say in who joins the team creates buy-in and helps contribute positively to the person’s success. The other important thing to consider is the results.

Measuring the performance of your interview process is critical; focus on what questions work, who is involved in making your best hires and where the best candidates come from.  It can be difficult to coordinate and gather the data, but it is extremely valuable to the long-term success of your hiring process.