From the Ask Tom mailbag –
How do you interview for culture fit?
Here is my list of four absolutes required for success in any role, regardless of discipline.
- Capability (measured in Time Span)
- Skill (technical knowledge, practiced to mastery)
- Interest, passion (value for the work in the role)
- Required behavior
Have you ever hired someone, with the required capability, technical knowledge and practiced mastery, high value for the work, but the person just didn’t fit? The person just didn’t fit the culture?
Culture (my definition) is that set of unwritten rules that governs our required behaviors in the work that we do together. If it was a written set of rules, it would be in our SOP. Culture is determined by our practice and behavior. Culture is real. Culture can be influenced, but it is defined by the actual practice and behaviors that occur.
An organization can say they have a culture of open communication, but, culture is real. A culture of open communication is only defined by actual behaviors. It’s like being a smoker. You can’t be a smoker unless you smoke.
That’s why interviewing for culture fit is so important. It’s all about behaviors. The quickest way to change your culture is to add people to your roster that engage in behaviors counter to your (intentional) culture. Your culture always changes, shifts, when you add new people, because you are adding new (perhaps subtle) behaviors to the dance.
But your question is, how? How do you interview for culture fit? First, identify the behaviors that define your (intentional) culture. Then interview for those behaviors.
If you have an (intentional) culture of teamwork, identify those behaviors that support teamwork, like cooperation, collaboration, synchronization. Then interview for those behaviors.
- Tell me about a time when you worked on a project where teamwork was critical?
- What was the project?
- How long was the project?
- How many on the project team?
- What was your role on the project team?
- Why was teamwork critical on this project?
- In what ways did the team work well together?
- In what ways did the team work against itself?
- When the team worked against itself, what did you do?
- How did that work out?
- What did you learn, working with that team?
Culture is all about behaviors.