4 Interview Questions Smart Leaders Ask to Create Great Culture
Secrets to making the right hires for your company – every time.
BY KATHRYN MINSHEW
Previous experience, key skills, and education. They’re undoubtedly all important things you consider when filtering through applicants in order to make a new hire.
But, what’s another major determining factor of whether or not that hopeful interviewee deserves an offer letter? Cultural fit.
Unfortunately, this important element isn’t quite as cut and dried as those other qualifications—it can’t be quantified in succinct resume bullet points.
Many employers use the, “Would I have a beer with this person?” test, which often leads to unintentional bias.
After all, culture fit goes beyond whether someone will get along with the current team—what’s arguably even more important is whether candidates will thrive within your work environment and embody your core values.
Asking smart questions in your interviews is a surefire way to focus in on whether or not an applicant will be a seamless addition. At The Muse, we like to ask these four:
1. What’s a company (other than this one) that you admire, and why?
It’s all too easy to forget that cultural fit is a two-way street.
Yes, the candidate needs to gel well with your company’s vibe and mission. But, you also need to fit in with her desires, goals, and long-term career vision. It’s not a one-sided relationship.
This is exactly why this question can be so revealing.
Does she love a specific company because it’s known for a flexible approach and laid-back atmosphere? Does he admire an organization because it’s a standout leader in an already crowded space?
This question helps you find out what exactly an applicant values in his or her employer, which is important when you’re searching for a mutually beneficial fit.
2. Under what conditions do you do your very best work?
You don’t hire for mediocrity.
Instead, you bring people onto your team because you know that they’ll make a valuable contribution and turn in amazing work. But, in order to have that expectation, you need to make sure you’re fostering an environment that allows them to do so.
This is another one of those questions that gets down to values and discovers what an applicant needs to truly succeed.
Perhaps she does her best work under pressure, with the constant threat of deadlines hanging over her head. Maybe he needs a little more room to breathe and be creative. Perhaps she likes to keep her head down and do most of her work alone, or maybe she relies heavily on teamwork.
Every single candidate is different. So, asking this question will help you choose the applicants that won’t just survive in your office—but thrive.
3. Can you describe a work environment that you would feel really uncomfortable in?
You now know what makes up an ideal work environment for the applicant you’re interviewing.
But, sometimes finding out what a candidate doesn’t want can be just as revealing.
Asking this question is a great way to get a feel for whether your company is the stuff of this interviewee’s dreams—or his very worst nightmares.
If his answer to this question basically sounds like a biography of your office environment? Well, then you know you haven’t found the right match.
4. Who would you consider the ultimate co-worker from any movie, TV show, or book?
There’s a reason that questions about favorite movies, books, or television shows are such popular icebreakers—one short answer can tell you a lot about someone’s personality.
This question is a sneaky way to get a sense of a candidate’s interests outside of the office, while also taking things one step further and illustrating what sorts of people he or she tends to work well with.
Does she say she’d love to be desk mates with Jim Halpert, because she appreciates the pranks and humor he brings into the office? Or, would he love to work with Leslie Knope, because they share that same ambitious, go-getter spirit?
While it might seem like an off-the-wall question, it can really tell you a lot.
Cultural fit is undeniably important when you’re looking to make a new hire.
But, unfortunately, it isn’t something you can simply scan for on a resume or an application – nor do you want to accidentally bias yourself towards people who will hit it off immediately with your existing employees lest you run the risk of building an overly homogenous team.
Employees don’t need to be best friends, but there does need to be a level of mutual respect and understanding.
Ask these four questions in your interviews, and you’re sure to narrow the field and find the very best fit for your company’s culture.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.