Ideal Outcomes

Ask Well, Hire Well: Interviewing for Culture Fit

by Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.

Culture fit is an important part of the process when you’re looking to attract and hire new talent. Making the right hiring decisions is about more than looking at a potential employee’s qualifications and previous roles; it’s also crucial to ensure they align with your company culture.

In this blog, we’ll explore how you can assess potential employees for culture fit and identify some of the key interview questions to ask them.

What is Culture Fit and Why is it Important?

Quite simply, a culture fit is a match between a candidate’s core values and working style and the beliefs, norms, and behaviors of your company.

Let’s consider an example. If new hires prefer working in a very structured environment with a strict dress code, for example, they likely won’t feel as comfortable or productive in a more flexible, casual structure. They may struggle to adjust, which can have a negative impact on their work, co-workers, and the culture as a whole.

At the managerial level, the damage wrought by a conflict of leadership style can be even greater. Nobody wants to be working for the manager who expects their team to be at their desks every day when the rest of the company has the flexibility to work remotely.

On a more positive note, hiring people is an opportunity. Get it right, and they’ll help strengthen your company culture and take your organization to new heights. One effective way to identify strong culture fit is to ask intentional questions during the interview process.

Culture Fit Questions to Ask During an Interview

By asking the right interview questions, you can better identify the job seekers who share your mission and values and who will thrive within your company culture.

Here’s what to ask:

Where and when have you been most productive and happy at work?

The work environment is a big part of a company’s culture, so this is an important question to ask as it can flag a potential mismatch. Was the candidate happiest working undisturbed in their own office or at home? If so, a role in a busy, open-plan environment is unlikely to be the best fit. Similarly, if their ideal work schedule is limited strictly to working hours, they may not be happy in a workplace culture where they’re expected to regularly be on call or respond to emails after hours.

How do you prefer to communicate with colleagues?

One of the biggest elements that make up an organization’s culture is how employees communicate. Does your company use instant messaging systems such as Slack? Do you find that employees enjoy striking up conversations in the break room? Or does communication flow through formal emails and scheduled meetings? While it’s always possible to get used to a new form of communication in a new job, if a candidate strongly prefers certain communication styles, it can be a very useful indicator of cultural fit.

Which of our company values resonate with you most?

Your core values are the foundation on which everything else in your organization is built. So when looking for a cultural fit, it’s crucial to find people whose values align with your own, whether it’s putting customers first, committing to diversity and inclusion, driving innovation, or acting with integrity. This question not only puts the spotlight on a potential employee’s values but is also a great way to determine if they’ve done their homework on your company.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

If you’re looking for a great culture fit, it’s important to identify an employee’s motivation. What drives them? It could be servicing customers, caring for others, or pushing themselves creatively. It might be that professional development spurs them on. Whatever their motivation, if it aligns with the job they’re applying for and your wider company mission and values, they’re more likely to turn up every morning with a smile.

How do you manage your work-life balance?

Work-life balance is an important element of every company culture. In your organization, is it the norm for managers to send emails outside working hours? Are employees happy to work weekends occasionally to meet an urgent deadline? Can team members pop out to see their child’s school play? This question encourages candidates to open up about their ideal work environment and helps you determine if their preferences align with your company culture.

How do you prefer to receive feedback?

This question can tell you a lot about someone’s work style and what management style motivates them. Some people prefer to receive informal feedback on an ad-hoc basis—a quiet word to resolve an issue in the moment and nudge them back onto the right path. Others might be used to a more formal structure of clear career development and diarized check-ins; if so, they might find unscheduled feedback intrusive or even stress-inducing. A new employee’s desired leadership style can be a great indicator of cultural fit.

Do you prefer to spend the majority of your time working independently or as part of a team?

This question can reveal a lot about a candidate’s work style and how they might fit within your company. It could be that your company has a culture built around teamwork and collaboration, or you might have an organization comprised of individual rockstars working independently to hit strict deadlines, drive new business, or generate new ideas. A candidate’s answer can also determine whether they’ll be happy in the position. For example, a job as a writer or web developer will require long stints of working independently. On the other hand, it’s important to work as part of a team regularly for sales or marketing roles.

Making the Right Hiring Decisions for Your Company

Ultimately, a company’s culture is built by its people, so it’s important to find the right fit for every role. Asking the right questions can be a helpful step in the right direction, but culture work doesn’t stop there.

At Ideal Outcomes, we help businesses create thriving company cultures where employees can do their best work. We can help you refine your hiring practices, enabling you to identify employees who will fit in with and enhance your company culture.

We’ll guide you through the process of culture change at every step. Get in touch today to learn more.