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Interviewing For Cultural Fit

It’s not enough to simply hire someone who has the skills and experience to fill your open position. Smart employers must also satisfy themselves that the potential recruit will fit into the business culture and sign up to its vision and values. Read on to learn more about cultural fit and some pointers for employers and candidates to look out for in an interview. We’ll finish up with 10 example cultural fit interview questions.

Getting all this right might just be one of the best things your company can do.

What is a cultural fit?

We’re going to assume here that your interview subject has the necessary skill set and experience to work for you, but is that person right for your business? Do the candidate’s beliefs and behaviours fit with the culture and values of your company? For example, if your business promotes innovation and teamwork, you’d like to know that your candidate has thrived in a similar environment before. And you’d need to know if your candidate prefers to work alone or believes you should simply stick to tried-and-tested processes – major red flags, in this case.

Therefore, recruiters should have a decent understanding of their company’s values and culture but be flexible to account for subtle differences between departments. For example, the dynamic within the marketing team will likely be different to those found in the IT department.

Why you should assess cultural fit?

On a personal level, any recruiter wants to be recognised for hiring great people who “fit in”. But the importance of cultural fit to the actual business is significant. Getting in people who fit culturally means not only will they stick around longer, but it will also maintain balance and morale for the rest of the team. We’ve all heard examples of a new manager being hired whose manners and style rubs everyone up the wrong way. If this happens in your organisation, your star employees may well start looking for a job elsewhere. In other words, embracing a solid cultural fit will reduce staff turnover and save on all those associated recruitment costs.

Looking at cultural fit is not just part of the recruitment process. Done correctly, it necessitates the whole organisation to develop and communicate its core beliefs, culture and values. This might be in the form of a presentation from the CEO or company briefings. The point is that every employee should be signed up to it. This exercise might help you identify the shortcomings of some existing employees who might benefit from retraining or perhaps going through a rigorous review process.

Where cultural fit interviews can go wrong

Of course, you hope your candidates have prepared well for their interview. Chances are, many are even ready for your subtle cultural fit interview questions, and they’ll rattle off an answer designed to impress you and improve their chances of getting hired. So, you need to recognise when the candidate is telling fibs, perhaps by asking follow-up questions to expose shortcomings. They might say they love collaborating and embracing other teams in decision-making processes, whereas they’re more inclined to take decisions themselves and work in a silo.

Be aware that you should dig deep – shallow cultural fit questioning might lead you simply to hiring someone who you think you’d get along with. You’ll end up hiring a succession of clones. You should actually recognise how new hires can add culture to your organisation, not just complement it. New ideas and fresh approaches might be just what you need, so long as the core beliefs and values match up. Understand that it takes all sorts to make up a successful team, so long as they’re pulling together and sharing the same goal and vision.

Don’t limit the cultural fit conundrum to the interview room. Take your candidate on a tour of the office, perhaps introduce them to potential co-workers. How do they interact? Will they get along? Also, speak with the receptionist. How did your candidate present him or herself?

10 example cultural fit interview questions

1) Tell me about the work environment or culture that enables you to be most productive and happy in your role?

2) Describe the management style that you enjoy working with? What can your manager do better to make you happy?

3) How would other workers in a previous job describe your role and input in team efforts?

4) How would those workers describe your own work style and contribution to the office environment?

5) Tell me about a time when you felt you were not a good cultural fit in an organisation? Why was it a bad fit, and what did you do about it?

6) When working with other people, what is your preferred relationship with them?

7) What gets you excited about coming to work every morning?

8) In your opinion, what's the biggest problem in most offices?

9) What does a successful company culture look like to you?

10) In the typical workplace environment, what role does being empathy and humour play?

Finally, if you're an employer looking for support with your recruitment process, please browse the recruitment service that Aaron Wallis offers.

About the author

Rob Scott

Rob is the Managing Director of Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, a national recruitment agency specialising in sourcing sales and marketing staff for businesses across a broad range of commercial sectors. Before setting up Aaron Wallis, Rob spent ten years at a specialist Sales and Marketing recruitment division of a £0.5BN recruitment group, leaving in 2007 as Marketing & Sales Director to establish Aaron Wallis.
 
With over 24 years of experience in sales recruitment, Rob is a History graduate with an MBA (Merit) and a PgCert in Management Practice.  In 2007, 2009 and 2013 Rob conducted the most extensive surveys of sales professionals in the UK and is a trusted authority in the sales industry. From guiding employers through the recruitment process to helping candidates find their dream job, Rob's advice has been quoted in leading publications such as Business Insider and The Independent, as well as OnRec, which host The Online Recruitment Awards every year.

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