In Part I of this series, Evaluating a Prospective Hire: Assessing True Motivations, we discussed how to assess a candidate’s motivations for pursuing a new career opportunity. Once you understand why a candidate is interested in seeking a new opportunity, it is important to then determine whether your organization is a good fit for the individual. Regardless of technical capabilities and past experience, it is often a new employee’s fit within the company’s culture that truly determines ultimate success. When conducting a search for a new client, one of the first things our consultants do is interview client representatives to really understand the uniqueness of their company. Later in the search process, when evaluating candidates, our consultants can ask questions to gauge their individual fit into the cultural environment.
According to Jim Lord, Helbling Managing Director and search consultant, because company culture – and even individual departmental culture – can vary so greatly, it is important for hiring managers to plan how to address cultural fit within the interview process. The first step, before interviewing candidates, is to truly understand your company’s and department's culture. To do so, we suggest considering the following, and if appropriate and helpful, obtain insight from other key individuals in the organization and department for additional perspectives:
What makes your culture unique?
Why do people stay with your company and why might people have left in the past?
Why is this particular role open? Are there traits that the would increase the success or effectiveness of the new hire?
What qualities and attributes do the peers, direct reports, customers and supervisors of the role expect in a new hire?
How structured is the decision-making / authority process within the organization?
Once the culture of the company and the desired leadership style and personality of the new hire are identified, interview questions can be developed to help to evaluate a candidate in comparison to those traits. It is important that a hiring manager ask behavioral questions to understand the candidate’s personality and professional style. Such questions might include:
Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult client.
Tell me about the last time you had to deliver bad news.
Tell me about a time when you had to influence others without authority.
Lord adds, “Be sure to consider what the ‘right’ answer is to each of these questions so you can drill down with follow-up questions to gauge fit and style and to assess whether that will work within your company’s environment. Also, end these and similar inquiries by asking, ‘What was the outcome?’ It’s not always necessary for the outcome to be absolute success as there are often limiting factors beyond the candidate’s control. However, by learning how the candidate dealt with a specific challenge, you can gain insight into their interpersonal skills, management style, decision-making skills and general personality.”
Additionally, connecting with the candidate on an individual level and learning about his or her interests outside of work can shed light on what motivates them intrinsically, which can, many times, be helpful when hiring new employees.