21 Interview Questions to Assess Culture Fit

Anete Vesere (1)

Anete Vesere

Content Marketer

Culture is what makes employees wake up with a smile on their face on each working day. Furthermore, it is what motivates people put in the extra effort when it is required, help out a coworker when they need it. Most importantly – chase the mission the company is chasing. 

Culture is everything.

So, if culture is everything – how can CEOs, hiring managers and recruiters know which candidate will add to the organizational company culture? And which candidate will not? In this blog, you will find out:

What is culture fit & why is it important to assess it during interviews?

Every company starts out with a small group of people coming together because there is an awesome idea and a vision about how to put this idea into practice. The initial company culture is formed at this very moment with this group of people. It is the combination of behaviours, personal traits and skills that create the essence of what makes up company culture. 

However, when hiring we tend to hire based on people’s past experiences and amazing qualifications. As a result, we often end up forgetting about what matters most – whether they fit our organizations’ culture. I’m not saying having a good educational background and high-level qualifications is bad. Thing is even if the person seems like a good job-fit based on these aspects, without the person being a culture-fit – this new hire will eventually choose to leave. After all, people want to work for your company because they believe the ‘why’ behind your company. And that’s exactly why you should always put culture first (here’s what happens if you don’t). 

Long story short – hiring for cultural fit is hiring someone who contributes to maintaining the current culture (i.e. similar to the current team members).

Now, why am I telling you all this? Because without being able to assess culture fit at the very first stages of the hiring process, you will end up hiring people that do not identify with the similar aspirations and values. The more people you hire that don’t fit your culture, the increasingly bigger your mishire rates will get. That’s not all – overall productivity levels within the company will be negatively affected and, as a result, employee happiness will decrease.

Ready to start hiring for cultural fit, but still feeling a bit uncertain about how to assess this in interviews? Don’t worry – we have got you covered, just read on!

21 interview questions that will help you assess culture fit

To be able to effectively hire for cultural fit, it is important to first understand and define the core elements of what makes your culture unique. This way you are able to understand what a prospective hire would need in order to be able to thrive within your company. 

5 components of a company culture are: Including company beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviours and assumptions.

Culture may not be tangible but it shows up in behaviors and conversations, it is visible and you can hear it.

  • How are your team members acting in meetings or team gatherings?
  • Do they ask questions?
  • Do they offer their opinions?
  • How do your leaders react when challenged by a team member or offered a different perspective?
  • Are your employees comfortable with raising a concern or an issue?
  • How do they make decisions or share knowledge?
  • How do they speak with your customers?

Culture is what makes employees wake up with a smile on their faces each working day. Furthermore, it is what motivates people to put in the extra effort when it is required and help out a coworker when they need it. Most importantly – chase the mission the company is chasing.

Once you have a full understanding of the above-mentioned, here are some questions you can use throughout interviews with candidates to assess their cultural fit:

Behaviours and attitudes

  1. Describe a work environment or culture in which you are most productive.
  2. What would be the characteristics of a great boss?
  3. Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team?
  4. When you work together with a team on a task/project, describe the role that you are most likely to play within the team?
  5. Tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work and how you handled it.
  6. Define your ideal management style.
  7. In what format do you prefer to receive feedback?
  8. Tell me about a time where a situation was stressful at work and what did you do to cope with this stress?
  9. When was the last time you took a risk professionally?
  10. Describe a situation where you felt you didn’t communicate well. How could you have handled the situation differently?

Values, beliefs and assumptions.

  1. Tell me a bit about yourself.
  2. What does a positive company culture look like to you?
  3. What does work-life balance mean to you?
  4. What are the five things that are most important to you in a job?
  5. What traits do you believe make someone successful?
  6. What are you the most passionate about?
  7. Do you believe it’s more important to work fast or get the job done right?
  8. What kind of work would make you excited to get out of bed on Monday morning?
  9. What’s your dream job?
  10. Do you believe it’s important to establish and maintain good relationships with people?
  11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Examples of cultural fit: the good and the bad

Good cultural fit

  • An introverted, quiet person who prefers to work individually is hired to work at a company that has clearly defined goals and structures in place.
  • An extroverted, very outgoing, and social person is hired at a company that places a large emphasis on direct and frequent interaction with customers.

Poor cultural fit

  • A person who needs a lot of guidance and structure is hired for a company that places emphasis on independent work and relies heavily on the initiative on an individual level.
  • A quiet, private person gets hired for a company that works in small, collaborative teams and prioritizes innovative artistic approaches.

Obviously, as I mentioned previously – good cultural fit can bring many advantages. However, if a hire is a poor cultural fit, according to research conducted by Robert Walters Group, it can lead to:

  • A frustrated and unmotivated workforce
  • Employees more eager to quit sooner 
  • Lower productivity levels and job satisfaction
  • Higher levels of stress

The dangers of hiring only for cultural fit

Keep in mind that hiring only and solely for cultural fit can be a dangerous hiring tactic to use. Why? Because we often tend to assume which candidates will be a good “cultural fit”.  From a culture fit perspective, we tend to want to hire ‘like-minded people’. Meaning we look for people who have the soft skills that represent our core values. However, this might leave you in a situation where all new hires look, think and even act alike. 

Culture fit is highly subjective, that’s why it is often heavily influenced by unconscious bias. Let me briefly explain what exactly this means. It takes one-tenth of a second to make a wrong judgement about someone – that’s why they say “first impressions may be misleading” and “never judge a book by its cover”. Sadly, we all still do it – we trust our gut when it comes to making decisions or forming opinions about certain things and even people. The danger of this is also present when it comes to hiring. There are 3 types of bias that most commonly influence hiring decisions: halo/horns effect, similarity bias, confirmation bias leading to a distorted perception of which candidates are or are not a culture fit. 

Additionally, there is a high chance of social desirability bias creeping in during the process – as candidates are able to decode and identify favourable answers. 

If assessing culture fit during interviews is dangerous and harms your hiring quality, is there a way to assess cultural fit objectively?

Guide: How to objectively assess culture fit

Traditionally, hiring focuses primarily on an applicant’s skills, but once a candidate’s personality also fits with the organization’s culture, this employee will be more likely to deliver superior performance

Get your guide here!

Hiring for culture fit vs. culture add

The difference between hiring for culture fit and culture add

Hiring for culture fit is hiring someone who contributes to maintaining the current culture (i.e. similar to the current team members). 

So, asking “What this person is lacking in terms of culture fit” to then, later on, use that as a valid excuse to disregard this individual from proceeding further in the funnel.

In contrast, hiring for culture add is hiring someone who has certain aspects that your current culture lacks (i.e. different from the current team members). 

Thus, shifting the question to “What can this specific individual bring to the table?”.

hiring for culture fit means to look for candidate who are similar in terms of traits to you current team members.hiring for culture add means evolving a certain aspect of your culture.

Just some food for thought…

Interviews are often perceived as the ultimate gateway to finding the perfect candidate, however, in reality, it’s littered with many pitfalls:

  • Interviewer bias
  • Interviews are often inconsistent
  • Interview answers are easily manipulable
  • Extremely time-consuming & costly
  • Interviews can be incredibly stressful for candidates
  • Interviews may not showcase an applicant’s true capabilities

Read more about the 6 Major pitfalls when assessing candidates solely based on interviews

P.S. I am a big fan of objectifying hiring through data, as that massively reduces bias in the hiring process, also when it comes to building your company culture. I have to make a confession here though – I might be a bit biased in saying this, as objectifying hiring is exactly what we do at Equalture…

Get in touch with us and learn how you can bring culture to the core of your hiring practices in an objective manner!

Cheers, Anete.

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