How To Hire For Culture Fit (8 Questions To Ask)

Matthew Turner

As a manager, one of the most important resources at your disposal are the people you lead. No matter what your business is, people are always at the heart of it. Not just those on your team, but the ones behind your suppliers, customers and other stakeholders. Because of this, company culture has grown in both popularity and importance in recent years.

Similar to how your personality defines you as a person, your company culture defines what your business stands for. It humanizes your brand, and communicates your mission, core values and most important of all, the people that are a part of it.

From top to bottom, company culture runs throughout. As a manager, you get to choose whether to make this a conscious focus, or simply let it happen. The best, most successful managers are conscious of this process, hiring and building their team around a desired, purpose-driven culture.

Which begs the question of how to hire for culture, so you can ensure you the “right” people at all times.

Questions to Ask When Hiring For Culture Fit

For many years, managers hired people to fulfill a role. Focusing all their attention on what the role was, they hired people based on talent and experience. It’s not to say this isn’t important, but the rise of company culture has forced managers to also think about who they hire.

  • Are they a good fit for the company culture?
  • Will they fill a short term need, but become a long term problem?
  • How will they progress through the company over the next 5-10 years?

If people and culture play such an important role in success today, then who you hire is arguably one of the most important aspects of your job. How to hire for culture is becoming more important by the day, so if you want to build a world class team full of world class talent, take the following questions into account.

1. Are you focused on WHO or WHAT?

Legendary investor Ray Dalio lives by a principle of focussing on who to hire, rather than what role they’re filling. Author of Principles, and the billionaire founder of investment firm, Bridgewater Associates, Dalio has decades of experience.

He’s learned not only the value of people inside his business, but the role company culture plays in success. In his books, he talks about how to hire for culture by focusing on who you’re hiring, rather than what role you’re filling.

He argues that what matters most is having the right people involved, regardless of the roles they fill. Those you hire can learn new skills and develop experience, but if they’re not a good fit for your culture, they will likely never achieve what you want them to.

By focussing on the role, you may find talented people who are good at what they do, but may miss out on hiring people aligned with your culture, values or vision.

2. How deep below the surface are you going?

The cliche says you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The same is true when hiring someone, because although first impressions do count, they don’t always give you what you need.

Some people are better at “selling” themselves than others. A good resume tells you a lot, but does it truly tell you who they person is? Often, managers base their interview questions around what the role is, rather than trying to learn who the person filling it is.

As covered above, this leads to hiring talented people, but not necessarily those who are a good fit for your culture. If you want to know how to hire for culture, you need to use the interview as a platform to get to know the real person behind the role.

  • What’s their vision?
  • Where do they want to be in five years?
  • What motivates them the most?
  • What do they struggle with, and what do they believe holds them back?

If you ask real questions, you often get real answers.

3. Does the company vision align with who you're hiring?

One of the greatest benefits of company culture is that it helps you get crystal clear on what your vision is.  It turns your attention away from only thinking about what you do, and instead on to who you do it for, why and how. This vision helps define your business, which in turn plays a huge role in who you should hire.

By getting to know your potential hire on a deep level, you can determine whether they align with your company vision. Will they fulfill a short term need, or stay for years into the future? Are they aligned with the impact you want to create as a business? Will they become a valued member of the team, or will they likely create friction between colleagues?

4. Are you setting clear expectations?

As a manager, you already know many mistakes and issues arise from poor communication. People tend to assume other people know what they need to do, but in truth they don’t. Much of this often begins before they even join the team, which is why it’s important to set clear expectations from the offset.

  • What is their role?
  • What do you expect from them?
  • How should they communicate with you, and keep you updated?
  • What should they not do?

This goes beyond how to do their job, and into the expectations of how they act and interact with everyone else in the business. If you want to hire for culture, it’s your job to make sure your new hire know what’s expected of them. 

What makes them a good team member? What do they need to do to become a valued member of the culture you’re building? What should they not do, and what does a poor hire look like?

5. Is who you’re hiring a 100% yes, or just a maybe?

Austin Netzley, the bestselling author and founder of 2X, has a simple rule when hiring a new member for his team: it’s a 100% yes or no deal!

Often, we put off making decisions because we’re not 100% sure what to do. This is a sign of maybe. But if you want to know how to hire for culture effectively, you cannot rely on maybe. You have to be 100% sure that they are the right person for the job. If you’re not, the real answer is likely no.

This is why getting to know your potential hire on a deep level is so important. Doing so helps you realize if they’re a 100% yes or just a maybe. If it’s the latter, the right answer is often to walk away.

6. Are you rushing the process?

There’s a saying to “hire slow and fire fast.” When it comes to hiring for culture, this is good advice you may like to follow. If you do the above, you’ll hopefully not have to fire many people, because you’re confident whether they’re the right person for the job long before you hire them.

Part of this comes from taking it slow. If you have waited until you needed to fill the role, you’ve likely waited too long. If you want to know how to hire for culture, the answer is that you’re always hiring (more on this next). It’s an ongoing process that can take weeks or even months to complete.

If you need to hire someone right now, chances are you’ll rush the process and end up hiring someone who may or may not be a good fit for your culture. Getting to know them takes time. Trialing them and having them understand your company culture does, too.

You need to take it slow, which leads to the next question:

7. Are you always hiring (even when you’re not)?

As a manager in today’s fast-paced world, you always need to be on the lookout for the best talent. Of course there are times you need to fill a specific role, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t search for the right people at all times.

This comes back to the difference between hiring based on who vs what

By focussing on what role you need to fill, you may overlook people who are a perfect fit for your company culture. As time goes by, you may live to regret this. Whereas if you’re always on the lookout to hire people you deem a good fit for your culture, you’ll rarely miss out.

Again, hiring for culture takes time. You may not need them today, but maybe you will in a few months. The sooner you get to know them (and the sooner they get to know you and your business), the quicker their transition into your culture will happen when the time is right.

8. What does the first 90 days of your employee experience strategy look like?

Finally, the hard work doesn’t end once you bring your new hire onboard. A recent study from BambooHR suggests 17% of employees leave inside of three months of them starting (with 30% inside of six months). 

There’s so much choice in today’s fast-paced workplace, so it’s important you make their employee experience memorable.

  • Are you setting them up for success, or expecting them to sink or swim?
  • Are you making an effort to make your new hire feel special and part of the team?
  • Are you introducing them into your culture, or expecting them to just know what to do?

Your role as a manager doesn’t end once you hire someone. In fact, this only marks the beginning. It represents an opportunity to bring them into your culture and ensure they become a valuable member of the team. This is the difference between hiring someone to fulfil a role, and bringing someone into your company to have a long-term, lasting impact.

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