The world of work is changing rapidly. What once seemed like evolution, now seems more like revolution – the “gig” economy, millennials, mass retirement and artificial intelligence, just to name a few, make today’s war for talent a stressful, brutal battlefield. Employers face the constant challenge of attracting, selecting, developing and retaining superstars. Luckily, using scientifically validated assessments like those created by Talent Plus, organizations are able to make the most intelligent employment decisions. For example, our assessments are approximately 8X more predictive of job performance than years of experience. But no assessment measures all the knowledge, skills, abilities, talents and other characteristics necessary for near-perfect job performance. When applied correctly, a cultural fit interview can be used as a supplemental, complementary data point to further inform employment decisions.

Simply stated, organizational culture is “the way things work around here,” and a culture fit interview is designed to assess whether a candidate will join seamlessly with the job, team and organization. This is important because engagement is reflected in the commitment to the organization, as well as the feelings and emotions regarding “the way things work around here.” Cultural fit is an early indicator of one’s engagement level and retention.

Here are my recommendations when using a cultural fit interview:

  • Focus on relevant questions – There’s little, if any, evidence that questions, such as “How many golf balls can you fit in a school bus?” provide utility. Instead, think about questions that provide depth. For example, I ask candidates “Why do you want to be a consultant?” “What about Talent Plus is attractive to you?” “What did you like most about your last job?” “What are you best at?” “In what situations do you tend to struggle?” “What questions do you have for me?” I can get a sense of the candidate’s motivations and the extent to which they would fit our culture, mission and vision.
  • Ask each candidate the same, predetermined questions in the same order. This allows an apples-to-apples comparison, and research demonstrates this type of structure provides nearly 2X the utility as compared to asking questions that randomly come to mind. You should be after more insight than simply a DYLT – “do you like them” – factor, and interviewer bias can overwhelm your ratings when not following a structured interview.
  • Show up on time, actively listen (do not interrupt), take detailed notes and evaluate all responses using the same rubric. This boils down to giving the candidate your full, undivided attention, which puts them at ease. Fundamentally, people like to share their story; be engaged and you will create a great candidate experience. Regarding the scoring rubric, I like to keep it simple by giving pluses and minuses. When a candidate says something that rings especially true for our culture, I mark a “+” and when I hear a candidate say something that fundamentally goes against our culture, I mark a “-”. A note sheet full of pluses or minuses makes an easier decision, but I’ve also found this method helps me evaluate more than one candidate, side by side.
  • Test your questions before using them with candidates. While you likely do not have a team of Ph.D. researchers at your disposal, you can still get a sense whether or not your questions are hitting close to the mark. Think of the culture champions in your organization, and ask them your questions. You’d hope to see a lot of pluses on your note sheet. Conversely, ask your questions to those who do not always fit or emulate the desired culture. You’ll probably see a lot of minuses on your note sheet as they will not fare as well on the questions.

I hope this gives you a good start when thinking about fit. People make the place and organizations are known by the people they select, reward and keep. Lastly, I highly recommend reaching out to a Talent Plus consultant and describing your culture. Often, the wealth of information provided during one of our interviews can also provide a strong indication of a candidate’s cultural fit.

Thanks for investing in your team members!

Brett Wells is the Chief Research Officer and Interim Chief Consulting Officer of Talent Plus and takes great pride in methodically analyzing data and proactively utilizing his great relationship talent to communicate it effectively to the broader populace.

Brett M. Wells, Ph.D.
Chief Research Officer
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