Organizations will be able to identify and hire the best candidates only when they have a culture based on open, positive values that will enable a diverse selection of employees to embrace them. Hiring Managers and Interviewers must have a solid understanding of the company’s mission, vision and business culture and continuously refer back to it during the hiring process.

Research shows that Hiring Managers tend to look for traits in candidates that may make them feel good about themselves, often beyond race or gender. They think “Would I get along with this person?” and end up hiring someone with whom they hit it off and have similar personalities. Many companies will talk about their culture during the interview, but it is insufficient to ask candidates directly if they will fit into the corporate culture. A smart candidate will come prepared and will give convincing answers when asked the most common interview questions that take on the culture topic. More often than not, interview questions and answers are canned and dishonest.

It is not easy to identify whether the candidate will be a cultural fit based solely on an interview, but there are questions and methods available that will enable Hiring Managers to go deeper and determine whether the interviewee will be in sync with more core elements of the company culture. Mark Babbitt, founder and CEO of YouTern, suggests taking the time to provide candidates with a look at the company’s culture in real time by walking them around the office and introducing them to key team members. Starting the interview with “What were you thinking as we walked through the office today?” will likely catch most candidates unprepared, but those that provide a more specific and honest response might be the closest culture fits for the organization.

Here are some probing questions that will help assess culture fit in an interview:

  • What was your work ethic like as a teenager?
  • What type of culture do you thrive in? (Does the response reflect your organizational culture?)
  • What values are you drawn to and what’s your ideal workplace?
  • How would you describe our culture based on what you’ve seen? Is this something that works for you?
  • What best practices would you bring with you from another organization? Do you see yourself being able to implement these best practices in our environment?
  • Tell me about a time when you worked with/for an organization where you felt you were not a strong culture fit. Why was it a bad fit?

Organizations need to hire people that are enthusiastic about the company’s purpose, have a common approach to working in teams or individually, and demonstrate a mutual understanding of how to assess risk or make decisions. A cultural fit goes beyond a common cultural educational background or shared enjoyment about company perks.