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How to Design a Values-Based Interview Format

And Also Identify Corporate Values or Team Values

Many companies already have a list of corporate values, and it is perfectly valid to undertake a values-based interview based upon these. 

However, sometimes corporate values were constructed at the board level, rather than from the ground floor upwards, and often do not resonate with all staff.

As we’ve all seen at some point in our careers, corporate values are often agreed upon at the board level as an exercise, something that they should be doing to be in line with other firms. They are, therefore, not always corporate values that are ‘lived and breathed’ by the firm.

Also, your team may have to have a different mindset to that of the formal corporate values. For instance, a corporate value may be ‘calmness’, ‘selflessness’ or ‘serenity’, which are all perfectly valid, but the Sales Director may not want to hire too many of these traits into their team.

An excellent exercise to undertake before embarking on a values-based interview process is to firstly review your company values to see whether they resonate with yourself and your colleagues involved in the recruitment process. 

If they need ‘tweaking’, it is worth ‘replacing’ one or a few of them with the following exercise.

If you feel that your corporate values are irrelevant to your team, then ‘replace them’ with this exercise. I once worked for a large corporate where one of the five core foundation pillars of the firm was a word that no one could pronounce, let alone define, comprehend or live by!

And of course, this exercise is beneficial if you do not have formal corporate values.

How to Choose the Criteria for a Values-Based Interview

Together with at least one other team member, or someone else involved in your recruitment process, take a copy of the attached list of personal values and highlight the values that you each independently feel are the best fit. The aim is to end with five values, so first, ask everyone to identify seven values they think are required for this particular role. Preferably either cut them from this sheet or write them down on an index card or note card. Making it visual helps to crystallise thought in this process, and what I like to do is write them on post-it notes and stick them onto flipchart paper.

Usually, at this point, some magic happens, and you will find that there is a synergy between the words that you’ve independently chosen. While it’s rare to all choose exactly the same words, you’ll see some with definite links.

Group these words together, and this is where the posit it notes work brilliantly, as you can push them all to different corners of the flipchart paper. 

In my experience of doing this with tens of hiring managers across many industry sectors, this is often the end of the task as the separate values are already in five separate themes of values.

To help crystallise the process, you can think of a word that sums up all of the words within these separate groups of collective words. Aim to distil your list of words down to no more than six, ideally five values upon which to design your values-based interview against.

How to Create Values-Based Interview Questions

Let’s, for instance, say that you have chosen ‘teamwork’ as one of the necessary values. 

You may have heard of the STAR technique of asking questions, and for values-based interviews, I would develop this one stage further. I call it the Ringo method (I am now showing my age!) as it is the STAR method, with an additional ‘R’, so STARR method.

S – Situation

T – Task

A – Action

R - Result

R - Reflection

So, going back to the value of ‘teamwork’ and applying this STARR method to formulate your questions:

SITUATION - Tell us about a work situation where you needed to work as part of a team? (NB make it a work situation as ‘teamwork’ invariably evokes the time that they were 3-0 down at the half-time and won 4-3)

TASK – What was the team asked to achieve?

ACTION - In your view, what was the result of working together as a team?

RESULT – What happened as a result of working together in this team – what was the outcome?

REFLECTION – If we spoke to your colleagues in this team, what would they say about your role as a team player in this project?

Click here for further examples of Values-Based Interview Questions

As always, when interviewing, it is good practice to ‘ladder’ your questions further. For instance, once the candidate responded to the REFLECTION question, you could ask ‘what did you learn from this experience?’ and ‘how has your behaviour within a team changed based upon this experience?’. This allows the candidate to provide extra information enabling you to score more accurately against your Values Based Interview scoring criteria.

For a two page list of values click here

Rob Scott, Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, Author Photo

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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