6 best cultural fit interview questions to ask candidates

Last updated:
May 24, 2021
December 19, 2021
min read
Simran Singh
|interview questions
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As a hiring manager, recruiter, or CEO, it is your responsibility to find and hire the best people. This involves looking for potential employees with the right skills and experience.

However, one of the most important things to look at is whether your candidates are a cultural fit or not, which means you’ll have to have an arsenal of great cultural fit interview questions at hand.

Cultural fit - a definition

The term ‘cultural fit’ means a synchronization - a harmony - between the interviewee and the company’s values as a whole.

In short, it takes the business’s core values and ethos and ensures it matches with the potential employee.

When there is a strong cultural fit, it’ll be apparent that the interviewee can grow and thrive within your organization. Candidates who are solid culture fits are more likely to stay with you longer and perform better than candidates who don’t share your company values.

Hiring for culture is therefore incredibly important as it lessens the employee turnover rate while also increasing the general productivity of the company.

How to assess cultural fit

Cultural fit has little to do with qualifications and the buzz words on CVs.

While it may be impressive that an interviewee gained a 1st class degree within the field they need for a role, it’s impossible to assess the cultural fit to the required extent based on their resume.

Ultimately, the only way to assess whether someone shares the same (or very similar) values with your company is with a face-to-face conversation.

That’s why we’ve gathered a list of our favorite and most telling cultural fit interview questions.

But, before you can assess whether someone is a strong cultural fit with the organization, you must first define the cultural fit of the business itself.

How to determine an organization’s culture

The culture of a business is split into three elements:

1 - Values

A company’s values could be individual factors like honesty, fairness, accountability, and/or trust.

2 - Beliefs

The beliefs of a company could be “putting people before process,” as Netflix clearly states to their wide-spread team.

3 - Behaviors

The behaviors of a company could include things like having a healthy work/life balance or being open to learning new skills.

It’s vital for anyone who is hiring to understand the company’s culture before they can assess the cultural fit during recruitment.

Ensure you’re fully aware of your organization’s culture by writing down the points that come with each element above. Only then can you genuinely assess cultural fit with a potential employee.

Identifying your best cultural fits

The cultural fit determines whether candidates will thrive within your organization or whether they will wind up underperforming. While assessing candidates on their skills and past experiences is pretty straightforward, evaluating the fit of candidates has proven to be quite challenging.

Why is assessing cultural fit hard?

Even though cultural fit is generally seen as an important factor in hiring, many organizations seem to struggle to assess their synchronization level.

This is because cultural fit is hard to measure objectively, and there are no standardized metrics available for it.

Assessing for a match in values, beliefs, and behaviors is 100% based on human judgment.

Cultural fit interview questions

Job interviews are the most common settings where you can evaluate your candidates’ rate of cultural fit. But to do so, you have to ask the most telling types of questions.

6 fun interview questions to assess cultural fit

For many recruiters, the interview is the only opportunity to meet their candidates in person, so it’s crucial to make the most out of it.

Here are some of our top picks for interview questions for culture:

Question 1: What attributes do you look for in a company when applying for a position?

Why this question should be asked:

Asking for specific attributes that job applicants are looking for in a company is a great way to determine what the candidates are like and whether their values align with the company.

Even though this question is similar to “why did you apply here?” it’s much more effective and specific. The “why did you apply here?” question often leads to candidates giving generic or cheesy answers.

However, this question demands more depth and detail and requires the candidate to think about specific company attributes.

What the answer will tell you:

The answer to this question gives you valuable insights into the candidates’ personality and whether they would be a good fit for the company. You can then easily link the attributes desired by the candidates to your company.

Assessing the cultural fit of candidates becomes simple, and you’ll gain authentic insight into the individual’s crucial employment factors.

Question 2: What would you do in your first 30 days on the job? And 90?

Why this question should be asked:

This is a true Recruitee favorite! By asking this question, you can get a good understanding of your candidate’s motivation levels.

Of course, you could go for the more direct “would you say you’re a self-starter?” question, but if you opt for that, there are very few people on the planet who would say ‘no,’ even if they’re not self-starters.

However, this question asks for more consideration. It’ll demand more specificity in the response, which, when analyzed, can be extremely telling.

What the answer will tell you:

Based on the candidate’s response, you’ll be able to assess whether candidates have a self-starting mindset and whether they like to take the initiative. This speaks volumes if it plays a role in the culture of your company. In a fast-paced and competitive environment like the SaaS space, this is something we are constantly looking for.

By making your candidates really think about what they will do in the first month on the job, you’ll discover how they like to work and what they’ll need to perform well.

Question 3: How could a manager best support you?

Why this question should be asked:

This question revolves around support. If your organization is people-orientated, and you strive for your employees to live out their fullest potential, this question demonstrates this in abundance.

Not only will their answer be telling of their working culture, but it also states, from the very beginning, that your company is an environment where employees can grow and thrive.

What the answer will tell you:

This question enables you to understand what management style best suits and motivates them.

Some candidates prefer to have a manager involved in all their day-to-day tasks, while others perform better when left alone. By asking this question, you can adequately assess whether candidates fit with the company culture in terms of the overall management style within the company.

For example, if your company is highly dependent on collaboration, but the candidate works best when working alone, this could highlight potential problems in the future.

Question 4: What do you think this role could look like in 5 years?

Why this question should be asked:

Job roles can change over time, especially in a fast-growing company. At Recruitee, we always ask this question to our candidates as we have significant ambitions with every role we hire for. We want our candidates to be ambitious about their roles as well.

This question implies to your candidate that your company is evolving along with the times, and their answer will determine whether this is accepted and embraced or not.

What the answer will tell you:

The answer to this question will demonstrate whether a candidate can embrace change.

With technology evolving every day, it’s implausible that everything will remain the same in the not-so-distant future. If flexibility is a value that the candidate embraces, you’re able to solidify cultural fit. Our culture, for example, is highly flexible, and we believe that every role could and should change over time as our company grows.

This requires a certain degree of flexibility from our candidates to have a perfect culture fit.

Question 5: Which company do you think is currently nailing it in your field of expertise?

Why this question should be asked:

This is a question that our growth team uses a lot when hiring a new team member. We are super passionate about tech and our field of expertise, and we want our candidates to be passionate too.

This question shows a degree of competition, which plays a factor in a company’s culture.

What the answer will tell you:

This question will convey many things about a candidate.

Firstly, if they’re well-informed of the industry, it’s a good indication that they’re passionate about the field. By asking this question, you can see whether candidates share the passion and fit the rest of the team.

You’ll also be able to follow up their answer with a ‘why?’. By asking for justification for their response, you’re able to evaluate the key components the candidate believes to be successful. If they align with your company, it shows a solid cultural fit.

Question 6: How would you describe our company culture?

Why this question should be asked:

While it might seem odd to ask your candidates about your own company culture, this question can lend you valuable information.

It also tells your potential employee that your company culture is essential to the growth of the business. This sets out expectations and boundaries from the off-set.

What the answer will tell you:

By making the candidates describe your culture (or at least what they think your culture is like), you can get an indication of what made them apply to work at your company and whether their expectations align with your actual company culture.

You can also determine whether the candidate has done their research. If they describe a similar or exact match to your company’s, then this implies that they resonated with this culture. It prompted them to apply, after all. If not, however, they could be on a very different page.

In short, candidates who can accurately describe your company culture are very likely to be a good fit.

4 tips on how to assess cultural fit

Assessing for culture fit is 100% subjective, which can make it tricky. There are no objective metrics by which to judge cultural fit.

But, all is not lost. Despite it being difficult, there are ways to assess cultural fit.

Use our pointers during the evaluation of a candidate:

1 - Be aware of your personal biases

Hiring for culture fit doesn’t mean you should hire people that have the same interests or lifestyles.

It means hiring people that fit the way of working within your company.

Make sure hiring for cultural fit doesn’t turn into discriminatory hiring where introverts or people from different cultural backgrounds are rejected more often.

Hiring for company culture should go hand in hand with hiring for diversity.

Pro tip: Write down the 3 core elements that make up your company culture: the values, beliefs, and behaviors. Stick to these to avoid making it personal.

Recognizing and addressing hiring bias in recruitment webinar

2 - Use structured interviews

Using structured interviews can be hugely valuable when evaluating candidates for culture fit.

It makes it easier for you to compare different candidates with each other and results in less bias in your hiring decisions.

If you’re asking the same questions in the same order, you’re able to analyze each candidate’s answers for the closest cultural fit.

Pro tip: Asking for justifications can be just as valuable as the root question. When writing out your structured questions, try to dig deep and ask for the ‘why.’ You’ll find that, even if all of your candidates give you the same answer, their justification can show more or less of a cultural fit.

3 - Involve the team

The team determines the cultural fit, not one person alone. So, don’t be afraid to get them involved.

Your team should have an opinion and beliefs to express when introducing a potential new employee to the company. So, implement collaborative hiring.

Once the team has had the chance to spend time with the candidate, they can offer invaluable feedback. This will be helpful when assessing cultural fit.

Pro tip: A very effective step in the hiring process could be to have a trial day for candidates. This helps them get to know the team and helps the team get to know the candidates better.

4 - Understand your company’s culture before you assess it with others

Organizational culture is not a fixed set of rules and regulations that you can refer to.

You can’t Google your company’s culture.

A working culture grows with a company and is constantly subject to change. So before you hire, make sure that you think about your organizational culture first. You need to fully understand the company culture before you can actually start evaluating candidates on this.

Pro tip: To determine the company’s culture, it’s worth reaching out to your current employees. Assess the cultural fit appropriately by discovering the general consensus of how the team would define the working culture.

The dangers of hiring for cultural fit exclusively

We live in a world where culture is embraced and respected by most. Cultural fit is absolutely fundamental to bringing out the best in your team and ensuring everyone is on the same page.

It almost acts as a code of conduct, and it underpins every action within a corporation.

That said, hiring exclusively based on cultural fit can be dangerous and detrimental to the organization’s growth.

Some recruiters would say that cultural fit is bad because it stirs up prejudice and discrimination. With that comes a poor employer reputation, unhappy staff, and a lack of diversity in the workplace.

Plus, it really is essential also to consider the qualifications, relevant experience, and resumes of each of your candidates. An individual could be the perfect cultural match, but if they’ve had little to no experience in a very technical role, this will cause problems.

Our advice? Understand how to assess cultural fit without making it personal. Don’t fall into the trap of affinity biases.

Cultural fit should play a prominent role in your recruitment process. However, it’s not the only role. Strike a healthy balance between hiring for skill as well as cultural fit.

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