Hiring for fit? Use this one interview technique to do it right

Corporate team discussing values-based hiring

Picture this: you have two exceptional candidates in the running for a key role in your organization.

They both have good experience, comparable education, and great references. They’re both saying all the right things, coming across as smart, friendly and professional.

One of them is going to make a truly stellar addition to your team, introducing initiatives that make a big impact, and moving quickly up the ranks. The other will join the organization, do some pretty okay work for a few months, and then move on to something bigger and better (in their eyes).

The real question is, which is which?

Enter values-based hiring.

Values-based hiring focuses on identifying how well a candidate’s values align with the organization’s values during the hiring process. Hiring decisions are based not on who has the best experience, but on who is the best cultural fit (given that they have the aptitude to succeed in the role).

Essentially, by aligning your recruitment strategy with your organizational values and culture, you put yourself in a much better position to find the hidden gems – your future star players – and to pass on the candidates who are doomed to be labeled “not a good fit.”

Here’s how you can use values-based hiring technique to find your next superstar employee:

  1. Define your values

First things first. If you’re not clear on your own organizational values, you’re not in a position to start figuring out which of your job candidates embody them.

When Buffer was a fledgling 10-person start-up, it noticed that 80 per cent of Fortune 100 companies expressed their values publicly, and that purpose-driven companies outperform others by 400 per cent.

Inspired, Buffer set out to name and communicate its own values. Its list of 10 core values looks like a modern scout’s handbook, with a series of mottos like “Live smarter, not harder,” “Choose positivity” and “Do the right thing.”

“Feeling aligned with a company’s values, mission and philosophy is one of the top reasons employees love where they work, and the primary reason that consumers feel they have a relationship with brands,” writes Courtney Seiter in a blog for Buffer.

  1. Know what your values look like in action

What does “choosing positivity” (or whatever you’ve landed on as one of your core values) look like in action?

Knowing what kind of behaviours go along with your values transforms the list from something theoretical to something concrete and measurable. It can be as simple as making a list of five to 10 behaviours, actions, or achievements that truly embody each core value you identified.

Finding ways to measure or identify your values in individuals is a crucial part of bringing your values into the hiring process (more on that below).

  1. Ask questions that show a candidate’s values in action

Once you know what behaviours embody your values, you can look for them in your job candidates.

Of course, asking a candidate directly about their values might get you some insight, but it might also just show that they did their homework on your company, and can parrot back the values that are front and center on your career page.

Instead, you can get deeper by asking values-focused behavioral interview questions. Developing these questions can take some time – you want to pull on that understanding of what your values are and what they look like in practice, and then find identify and responses that reveal whether a candidate is acting from them.

You can also use these questions to keep track of the red flags they might be sending up, too. Do they seem, for example, to actively embody the opposite of any of your values? You should be keeping an eye out for candidates that won’t be the right fit, as much as you’re looking for the ones who are.

  1. Take the interview out of the office

Or, in other words, extend your assessment of a candidate to situations where they’ll reveal their values, rather than just talking about them.

Take Zappos, for example. The online retailer is big on values, and it shows in their hiring practices. Interviews aren’t limited to the traditional 30- to 60-minute sit-down. Instead, potential employees are also put through “the social test” and “the nice guy test.”

The social test involves putting job candidates in a more relaxed, social setting with some of their potential colleagues and giving them a chance to engage informally. With the spotlight off them, this is an excellent chance to watch how someone handles themselves. Do they jump into new situations? Are they friendly? Do they take the time to really listen and learn about others?

The “nice guy test” takes it a step further, as Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh explained to the Wall Street Journal:

“A lot of our job candidates are from out of town, and we’ll pick them up from the airport in a Zappos shuttle, give them a tour, and then they’ll spend the rest of the day interviewing. At the end of the day of interviews, the recruiter will circle back to the shuttle driver and ask how he or she was treated. It doesn’t matter how well the day of interviews went, if our shuttle driver wasn’t treated well, then we won’t hire that person.”

Switching to a values-based hiring model might involve some work – and some deep thinking – in the short term. But the long-term impact makes it worthwhile. Define your values, and then make sure everyone you hire not only understands them, but lives them.

See also:
How (and why) to hire for fit
What a Calgary microbusiness can teach us about hiring for fit


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