4 Ways to Ask Cultural Interview Questions

You’ve got someone coming in for an interview. Fortunately, the person seems to have the right experience and skill set for the job. But there’s another area you’ll need to explore, one that a resume will tell you little about – whether the prospective employee will fit in with your company culture. Every organization has a “personality” or culture that’s formed by the behaviours, attitudes and values of its employees at all levels. Company culture is reflected in how people interact with each other, make decisions and organize their day-to-day schedule. The culture can shape company policies, the role employees play in designing projects, and how often workers take time off. In a healthy culture, employees feel that they can be themselves and contribute to the culture in a positive way.


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Why ask culture-fit interview questions?

Assessing whether a candidate would be a good cultural fit can have a major impact on the success of your organization. Employees who feel kinship with their supervisors and coworkers may find more meaning in their work and feel like they belong. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, businesses that treat employees as “stakeholders of their future and the company’s future” enjoy improved performance and greater worker engagement. Hiring people who are a good cultural fit helps with employee retention and recruitment. Workers who believe that their values and attitudes match up fairly well with those around them tend to want to stay on the job for a longer period of time. When current or former employees review a company, they often give input on how they feel about its culture.


Culture-fit interview questions

Figuring out if a candidate would be a good cultural fit can be challenging. You certainly can’t spend hours with prospective employees getting to know their likes and dislikes or observe them in different social situations, and it would be inappropriate to ask them personal questions about their habits and beliefs. So how can you gauge whether a person would be a good culture fit in an interview? The best way is to come up with cultural interview questions that help you learn about a candidate’s behaviours, values and attitudes. These questions should be open-ended, but not so much that they lack focus. For example, if you want to know if a candidate brings a sense of humor to work, you wouldn’t want to only ask, “Are you funny?” Instead, you could say, “Describe a time when you found humour to be helpful in navigating a tricky situation.” When you get to the culture-fit part of the interview, explain that you’re going to ask some questions to help you get to know the person better, and there are no right or wrong answers. Here are four areas to explore (with sample questions for each) to determine whether a prospective employee will fit with your company culture.


1. Previous employment

You can learn a great deal about whether candidates will fit in with your culture by asking questions about their perceptions of cultures they’ve been a part of in the past.


    • How would you describe the company culture at your last job?


    • Were you comfortable working in that environment? Why or why not?


    • If you could have changed one thing to improve the culture, what would it be?


    • Describe an instance when you and another employee worked really well together. What do you think helped make that experience a positive one?


  • Can you describe a time you took a risk in making a decision? What was the outcome?


2. Opinions about company culture

Theoretical or general opinion questions put candidates at ease because they don’t have to prove anything about past performance. Still, answers to these questions can reveal a lot about a person’s values, attitudes and beliefs.


    • What do you think are three things companies should do to boost morale?


    • How would you describe the ideal corporate culture?


    • What can managers do to allow employees to feel more trusted?


  • Should employees have unlimited vacation time or should such a policy be more structured?


3. Personality

Certain interview questions can help paint a picture of the candidate without prying into the person’s private life.


    • Talk about one of your great qualities that others don’t always appreciate.


    • What makes you a great team player?


    • Describe your ideal work day.


    • What kind of situation can create stress for you and, when that happens, what do you do to cope?


    • Do you prefer to delegate tasks or have them delegated to you? Or do you prefer a mix of both?


  • What is one of your worst pet peeves?


4. Hypothetical scenarios

Hypothetical or “what if” questions are fairly low-stress for the candidate but also challenge the individual to demonstrate creativity and confidence (depending on your company culture, you can get pretty bizarre with these questions).


    • Your team is giving a presentation in two hours and one member just called in sick. What do you do?


    • If you had to choose between a work environment that was always in chaos versus one in which nothing ever changed, which would you choose?


    • If you inherited so much money that you never had to work again, how would you spend your time?


  • If you could create a fictional company to make the world a better place, what would that company do?


In addition to determining whether prospective employees have the necessary experience and skills, it’s critical to also assess whether they are likely to be a good cultural fit. Employees who feel comfortable in their work environment will likely be more productive and want to continue working at that job for a long time.


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