Hiring for the right cultural fit

interview

Interviewing for skills and experience is relatively easy but we all know that a skilled person who does work effectively within our culture can mean trouble.

There two things to consider when interviewing for a culture fit.

  1. What is the purpose of your company? The right applicant needs to get excited about whatever you deliver to the customer. You might think it is the manufacture of widgets but actually it is the production of top-quality products, or cost effective prices, or immediate delivery. What products and services are you selling in addition to widgets?
  2. Your pace of work and how you achieve the above. Some companies are very family orientated with a strong emphasis on time keeping and working steadily though the day. Others are much more flexible with regard to time and focus, yet they would expect staff to work at overtime and weekends if necessary. What is your approach?

Remember to conduct the interviews in two halves. The first half is politely clinical and cold, where you ask questions of the applicant whilst giving nothing away about what you are looking for. This is to avoid good interviewees picking up subtle cues and telling you what you want to hear rather than their truthful answers. During this part of the interview the types of questions you want to ask are:

‘What attracted you to this role / company?’
‘What gives you the greatest satisfaction from work?’
‘Why have you chosen this career?’
‘What are your greatest strengths and personal attributes?’
‘What are your weaknesses?’
‘Describe to me your ideal job’
‘How would your manager describe you to me?’
‘Describe to me your average working day / worst working day’

During the second part of the interview put aside your questions and sell the job to them. Become warmer, more animated and authentically yourself. Answer all of their queries and truthfully, yet positively, describe what it is like to work within your company and what you expect from your staff. This will give the applicant all the information they need to determine whether you are the right cultural fit for them.

If you want to discover more about an individual do not be afraid to extend the interview into a drink at the pub or a meeting over lunch, where applicants often become dangerously relaxed and you can learn so much more. Alternatively ask them to come back and spend some time meeting the team, or even working with them for day. Your existing workforce will undoubtedly give you their opinions as to whether they will fit in!

The main point to remember is do not be pressurised into offering a job to someone ‘who will do’. If you a lucky it will turn out OK but often you are simply creating future problems for yourself. It is understandable to feel this pressure when work is coming in through the door and you need an extra body now. And for this reason recruitment must be viewed as a full-on, top priority task because when it is right it will feel SO right and the successful applicant will hit the floor running.

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About Sue Ingram

Sue Ingram is Director and Founder of Converse Well, experts in conducting difficult conversations at work. She is an Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University, contributing workshops on Feedback to students on their International MBA program. Susan has over 25 years experience of conducting crucial conversations with staff, to motivate, to improve performance or to dismiss.