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Culture fit and the interview

I have often commented to industry professionals that I spend most of my interview time looking for cultural fit and less on technical skill. I am sure part of the reason is I tend to interview people at the higher end of the organizational chart.

That said, 85% of people fail in their jobs because of poor culture fit, not incompetence. Besides obvious reasons for poor performance (health issues, lack of training, drug use, theft and so forth), inability to adjust or believe in a company’s culture and leadership is the most common reason for people leaving their job. Consider the departure of Apple executive John Browett. A highly successful CEO at Dixons, Browett joined Apple to last only six months as head of its retail division. Apple fired him due to a lack of “cultural understanding.” He is now succeeding as CEO of Monsoon Accessories.

In hospitality, companies such as Four Seasons and Marriott do a great job defining and communicating their culture. They also make culture a focal point of their interviewing process.

  • Here are some helpful hints on interviewing for culture:
  • Ask questions and listen.
  • Ask for examples of past challenges and how they were resolved.
  • Ask about motivation and dedication.
  • Use psychometric testing when possible.
  • Ask about daily schedule and the use of spare time.
  • Ask about tangible accomplishments and failures.
  • Test for critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Ask about future plans and goals.
  • Ask about leadership style.
  • Ask about work ethic and balance.
  • Ask about perseverance.
  • Ask about their mentors and people they admire.
  • Conduct references and verify what you have heard.
  • Put a system in place for multiple interviews, assessment and review.
  • Make culture a focal point of your conversation and success.
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