How to ask culture fit interview questions to hire the best candidates

How to ask culture fit questions

Zappos, a US-based retail company, offers its new employees $2000 to quit once they complete the training if they feel like they are not the right culture fit. This emphasis on company culture has earned the company a place in Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ for seven consecutive years. Other proponents of hiring for culture fit include Netflix, Facebook, and Disney. In this article, we will discuss how you can do the same for your business.

However, before you jump into the culture interview questions, take a moment to think about your company culture. Has it been clearly defined yet? If not, then that should be the first step in your action plan as your questions will largely be based on your company culture. 

How to create your company culture?

Every company has a culture even if it’s not documented. For example, being honest in your communication or prioritising customer experience. So, the first step is identifying this culture and deciding which values you want to guard as core values and which ones you want to remove. Next, you should document the core values so that all employees are aware of the values they should uphold in their day-to-day work.

If you are in the early stages of the business and haven’t given it a thought, you can begin with the following steps:

1. Write a mission statement

A mission statement intends to show why your company exists. This should include what your company does and can be as simple as TED’s mission statement – Spread Ideas.

2. Define the core values

Now that you know your company’s mission, it’s time to think about the values that help you in executing it. What values should all the employees share to turn this vision into a reality everyday? To begin with, you can identify the values that your company and employees exhibit or want to follow. For example, here are the culture values we live by at Internshala:

Defining the core values should not be restricted to leadership and should involve existing employees. This could include asking them for the values that are important to them or asking for the feedback on the core values that the leadership is in the process of documenting. This could make the employees feel like a part of the company’s vision and the direction they wish to take.

Once you decide upon your culture values, they should be shared with all the employees. Additionally, they should be mentioned on your website, especially in the careers page. This will help the candidates in setting their expectations from your workplace and deciding if your company will be the right fit for them.

3. Inculcate culture values in employees

After you have spent invested time in defining your culture values, you may want to ensure that each team member imbibes them in their workplace behaviour. You can do this by organising events around your core values. For example, if you value collaboration, you can organise team building activities, which will develop better relationships. 

Other ways include taking initiatives that reflect culture values, trusting your employees with upholding the values, and hiring for culture fit.

4. Hire employees who are the right culture fit!

Hiring for culture fit is an important part of sustaining your company culture. While it may be difficult to find candidates who fit the mould perfectly, you can still hire for the closest fit. 

Which culture interview questions should you ask?

The questions can be grouped into different categories such as:

1. Work style

1. What are some good qualities you have observed in a manager while working with them? 

2. What are you looking for in your work environment?

3. Tell me about a time when you received negative feedback from your supervisor. How did you handle it?

4. Have you ever made an important decision without the help of a manager? What was the outcome?

5. If you are conducting an interview to fill in a leadership position, ask them about their management style. 

6. How do you manage stressful situations? Give an example.

2. Collaboration/teamwork

1. Do you prefer working alone or with a team?

2. How would your co-workers describe you?

3. What role have you played in team projects?

4. Have you ever worked on a team project that failed? What did you learn from this experience?

3. Communication

1. Tell me about a time when you made a big mistake at work. How did you handle it?

2. How do you handle conflict at work?

3. Tell me about a time when you had to give difficult feedback.

4. Core company values

1. Which of our culture values resonates most and least with you?

2. What are the things that you like about your current company?


Lastly, you may also want to ask them about the type of work environment that they are most productive in. Besides their preference for physical workspace such as open office culture or cubicles, you may also gain other insights into their working style.

Now that you know what kind of culture fit interview questions you can pose, let’s find out how to evaluate the answers.

What should you look for in answers to the culture fit interview questions?

The culture interview questions should gauge how a candidate fits in with both your overall company culture and the subculture within a team/department. For example, a candidate interviewing for a marketing role can exhibit different values from the one applying for a tech position.

For a holistic culture fit assessment, you should seek examples from past roles. For example:

Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline at work.

Alternatively, you can ask questions about situations that they may encounter at the workplace. This will compel the interviewees to answer without prior thought.

Besides interview questions, some hiring managers may also note how the candidates interact with the other staff in the office.

Is your culture fit assessment bias-free?

Culture fit interviews are a great way to add employees who will perform well and remain a part of your workforce in the long term. However, the process is not without pitfalls such as unconscious bias. The hiring managers may end up choosing candidates who resemble them in terms of their background and experiences. Rather than evaluating the candidate strictly in terms of company culture, they may end up asking themselves – would I get along with this person? This approach could lead to prejudice, lack of diversity, and new thinking in the workplace.

Some companies deal with this by asking team members from different backgrounds to step in so that they can evaluate the candidates objectively. For example, at Google, a candidate is hired when they are approved by both the hiring manager and a hiring committee.

Another idea that is gaining currency is the notion of cultural add. Instead of hiring candidates who perfectly fit into the definition of a company’s culture, recruiters are searching for candidates who could contribute to their culture. These hires would be able to constructively challenge the existing culture and pave the way for better practises.

How often should you hire for culture fit?

Ideally, you should assess each candidate for culture fit, especially if you are hiring for a leadership role. However, it should be secondary to their skill set particularly if you don’t have the time to train a new hire.

These were a few pointers to help you in recruiting for culture fit. If you are still looking for the right candidates who will shine at your workplace, you could register and post a job on Fresher Jobs on Internshala.

Image credits: <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/vectors/work’>Work vector created by stories – www.freepik.com</a>

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