Why it’s essential to make hiring decisions based on culture
They say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. While skills can be taught, and raw materials can be molded, a tin link in a steel chain will never be a perfect fit, and no amount of effort will prevent it from weakening the integrity of the overall structure. The most well-rounded and effective businesses are comprised of diverse, interconnected teams of people who share the same makeup and, together, can carry the weight of any challenge they may face. The common denominator is that they align with the core values of the organization.
That’s why a culture-first approach is essential in hiring. From the earliest point in the recruitment process, hiring managers should be evaluating candidates based on their principles and how well those fit into the company’s core values: the essence that drives everything they do and every decision they make. Core values, unlike skills, abilities or expertise, can’t be taught or changed, and to the trained eye of someone who innately understands his company’s ideals, they’re impossible to imitate.
Interview accordingly: the Harvard Business Review distinguishes between skills interviews and values interviews. Without exception, values interviews should come first. For candidates disqualified at this stage, their skills are irrelevant, and you don’t want to risk being seduced by their specialties. If they don’t fit into the culture, they won’t be a good fit, period.
Defining and supporting your company’s core values starts at the top: leadership needs to have a vision for what makes their business tick, what their ideal employee looks like, and what framework of priorities, principles and philosophies will guide the decision-making process whenever the team finds itself at a crossroads. In practice, that means not shying away from having difficult conversations and owning up to our mistakes or misfires. It means we prioritize open pathways of communication and building trust with our clients above all else.
A team that is fundamentally aligned with their company’s values on a core level operates as a well-oiled machine. Online fashion retailer Zappos — a 1,500-employee company that produces $2 billion in revenues annually and sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion in 2009 — had potential candidates take this quiz at the start of their hiring process.
You won’t find any questions about past work experience, GPAs or sales wins on the Zappos Family Core Values Interview Assessment Guide. Instead, the questions skew philosophical: “How do you illustrate to someone that you are listening to them?” or “On a scale of 1-10, how weird are you?”
These unconventional asks are a testament to the ground-up approach that cements a company’s culture into the lives and values of its team members. Will Stanley, head of global recruiting for Glassdoor, calls these “behavior-based questions.” They’re effective because they’re illuminating case studies into how a candidate works, how they think, how they make decisions. They’re also impossible to fake; a candidate can parrot your company’s mission statement, but they can’t feign examples of how they enact their own values in practice.
Finding the right people and shaping your workplace around them ensures a strong foundation for team-building. While your employees’ career goals, skill sets, experience and expertise may change, who they are at their core is unshakable, and the most important factor in determining fit.