This is the second in a three-part series on identifying great candidates through the interview process. Last week, I proposed that all candidates be evaluated on their sales skills, even for non-sales roles. This week, I explore how to determine if a candidate fits within your organizational culture.
We all know organizational culture is important. It gives our organizations their character and sets them apart from other organizations. At the behavioral level, culture defines what is expected and accepted, and guides our action when there isn’t a policy, procedure or manager to tell us what to do.
Each new employee represents an opportunity to reinforce the organizational behaviors you’ve identified as driving extraordinary results. So it’s critical to find a candidate who shares the organization’s core values and who can readily adapt to your standards of performance.
Entrepreneur and charter school leader Cameron Curry describes culture as “the actions, attitudes and achievement standards a leader desires for a team to strive for in obtaining excellence.” These tangible elements of culture can be found in how we answer the questions of process and procedure that arise on a daily basis:
- How do we approach new people and new ideas?
- How do we prioritize our work?
- How do we delegate authority?
Your key cultural drivers will be unique to your organization, but these are questions I’ve found valuable in the past:
Describe three key things you try to accomplish in your first week at a new organization. This question highlights the candidate’s approach to new situations and indicates their high-level priorities. Is the candidate task focused? Looking to understand work flows and organizational structure? Eager to meet new people?
Imagine a situation in which you have multiple tasks due by the end of the day but it is unlikely that you will be able to complete them all. What do you do? This question allows you to evaluate whether a candidate’s priorities and work style complement your culture. Do they emphasize meeting customer requirements first? Or is pleasing their boss top priority? Do they focus on delegation and utilizing cross-functional teams? Or do they power through on their own?
How does an employee demonstrate they are ready to take on more authority? This question offers insight into how the candidate measures achievement, whether they emphasize seniority or merit, and what other factors they consider significant to leadership development (peer and cross-functional feedback, challenging assignments, etc.)
Of course, addressing culture directly is also valuable:
Describe the culture of your last organization. What did you like best about it? What did you like least? There are many elements of culture a candidate can talk about. Noting which they choose to highlight gives you insight into their own values.
And remember to consider what the individual can add to your culture:
What makes you unique? Cultural fit doesn’t mean we are looking for cookie-cutter candidates. Dynamic organizations always require fresh insight and new approaches. Ideal candidates will share your core values while still bringing their own style and personality to the table.
(Photo credit: Microsoft)