3 Ways to Check Culture Fit During an Interview

by Elizabeth Dukes on November 27, 2017

Bad hires can be like a virus. They wreak havoc in your office, cause distress to your employees and drive clients away. Fixing the damage caused by bad hiring is time-consuming and expensive, and sometimes the mess a bad hire makes can take a long time to clean up.

To avoid bad hire as much as possible, hire for culture fit.According to Harvard Business Review, as much as 80 percent of employee turnover is the result of bad hiring decisions. And turnover is expensive. The Center for American Progress reports the cost to replace an employee is anywhere from 16 percent to 213 percent of the employee’s salary, depending on the position. Yikes.

Though every employer makes mistakes from time to time and unintentionally brings on a bad hire, one way to avoid this unpleasant situation is by interviewing for culture fit. Determining how well a candidate will fit into a company’s environment can be just as important as reviewing their skills and experience.

Here are three ways employers can check culture fit during the interview process.

Ask Behavioral-Based Questions

Behavioral-based interview questions reveal the presence (or absence) of desired traits in an applicant, including leadership, integrity, an ability to collaborate and problem-solving skills.

Unlike some of the standard interview questions (“Are you a good communicator?” or “Are you detail-oriented?”), these questions require the candidate to answer with examples of specific situations they’ve encountered in the past:

  • Tell me about a time you came up with a creative or innovative approach to overcoming an obstacle.
  • What was last big mistake you made, and how did you resolve it?
  • Give an example of a time when you successfully motivated your colleagues to accomplish a shared goal.
  • Have you ever had to make a decision that was unpopular with your coworkers? How did you defend your position?

You’ll gain insight into how the applicant has behaved in the past, how she behaves on the job now and how she can be expected to behave if she begins working at your company.

Present Realistic, On-the-Job Challenges

For the most part, a day in the life of one of your employees will be predictable. But there inevitably will be those days where everything that could possibly go wrong does, and you need to be confident the person you hire is equipped to tackle literally anything (within reason) that is thrown her way.

Give the candidate some example scenarios of situations she may encounter on the job and ask her what she would do. Here are a few good ones from The Interview Guys and The Balance:

  • The candidate is in the middle of a major, long-term project when she realizes she has made an error that requires her to start the project over. How does the candidate manage the issue while still trying to meet the deadline?
  • A client is perpetually dissatisfied, regardless of the level of service they receive. At one point the client gives incorrect information that has a substantial negative impact on a deliverable. How does the applicant resolve the issue, even though it isn’t her fault?
  • The candidate’s supervisor approaches her and asks her to do something the candidate knows is absolutely against company policy. How does the candidate respond to her supervisor?

Pro Tip: Take the candidate on a tour of the office and ask them what kind of changes they would make to improve the workplace. How would they implement these changes? What strategies would they take? What tools and technologies would they use? This allows you to see how innovative they are about workplace design and the office environment.

By asking off the wall questions during interviews, you can get a view of how a candidate thinks.Ask Off-the-Wall Questions

Google is well-known for asking remarkably difficult questions during interviews. For example:

  • How many tennis balls could fit into an airplane?
  • How much would you charge to wash every window in Philadelphia?
  • How many cars travel across the Golden Gate Bridge every day?

The strategy here is less about getting the candidate to give you a correct answer—in fact, many of these curveball questions don’t even have a right or wrong answer—and more about observing how the applicant’s mind works and how quick she is on her feet.

Candidates can do hours and hours of research about the company and the position, but they simply cannot have a prepared answer if asked, “How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the U.S. each year?”

Only 5 percent of organizations evaluate whether or not the applicant would be a good culture fit during the screening process. And half wait until onboarding before gauging personality. Be in that 5 percent. And one last thing: Choose candidates who are a good culture fit but aren’t carbon copies of your existing employees. An office full of the exact same person leads to groupthink, the enemy of innovation.

Editor’s Note: This post was previously published on Inc.com and has been republished here with permission.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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