Quantifying Cultural Fit in an Interview

By Mhairi Kerr

Published on 07-02-2017

Interview tips

There are two parts to interviewing for a role or hiring new team members. One is the hard skills – the technical know-how to do the job. The second is cultural fit, and this is much harder to quantify. Cultural fit tends to be the soft skills that a potential hire holds, and you cannot assess those based on a resume or a cover letter.

I don’t think I have ever been to meet a new client when they haven’t stressed the importance of cultural fit in their team. Each company is different and even if you are the most qualified person for a role you may be rejected based on ‘cultural fit’. As a recruiter, this is really tough feedback to give as it often isn’t quantified in feedback. I think it is key that as a recruiter I delve into the cultural intricacies of a business in the first meeting so I can refine my search and give those who apply the proper feedback.

So how do you quantify cultural fit?

Cultural fit can fall into many categories, and as a company hiring it is particularly important that ‘what good looks like’ is ironed out before embarking on a hiring process. If you are a large, matrix managed organisation then it is likely that stakeholder management, tenaciousness and self-confidence are at the top of the list. If you are a small start-up, then the ability to manage through ambiguity and change plans at the last minute are probably more important. It's important not to use 'culture fit' as an excuse to employ the same type of people to 'fit in'. 

If you have ironed this out prior to a recruitment process and understand the values employees should align to, it will be much easier for recruiters to give feedback that a candidate is not the right cultural fit for your business. Conversely, if you are a candidate interviewing, probing a little further and asking for feedback on what does quantify a good cultural fit will be easier and you will walk away from the process understanding a lot more.

RELATED: How an emphasis on cultural fit can sabotage your diversity goals

At Six Degrees we hear the importance of culture in a business almost daily. We have spent a long time preparing briefing documents, and are able to offer advice around how to hire for those ‘soft skills’ that you can’t find on a resume. An example of some questions you might ask during the interview process in order to assess cultural fit are:

  1. Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  2. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  3. Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split-second decision.

If you are looking for more information on how you can devise questions that are relevant for your business, team and culture then please get in touch with one of our specialist consultants.