“They don’t understand that a true captain must pay attention to the seasons of the year, the sky, the stars, the winds, and all that pertains to his craft, if he’s really to be the ruler of a ship.”
–Socrates The Republic of Plato Book VI

Bringing a new team member on board can be a daunting task. Not only are you looking to find a candidate who meets the qualifications, but you are also looking for someone who will compliment and add to your current company culture.

Skills can be taught and learned, but it is far more challenging to try and teach something as abstract and innate as company culture – and sometimes it just isn’t possible. To avoid situations such as these, the logical step is to interview for cultural fit – but how?

It is a normal part of a business’s life cycle to have employee turnover on a semi-regular basis, and as baby-boomers begin to retire in larger numbers this turnover is happening more frequently. So, how do you preserve and grow your company culture in a positive way with a work force often in flux?

Bringing new team members on board will always effect your company culture, but you want these hires to add to it – not erode it. We have been quite frank in our discussions over the course of these company culture blogs, stressing the importance of positive work culture, its direct effects on employee productivity – which in turn directly affect the bottom line.

Keeping that all important bottom line in mind when hiring new team members, (who bring their own unique flair and untapped potential to the table) how do you ensure that that flair is the right flourish? Start by sticking to your company values – you know, the ones you used to communicate your way to your positive company culture.

It is important that your company culture remains true to those values. Think about it like navigating your company ‘ship’ by the stars – a constant – rather than trying to figure out what direction LAND-HO might be from the direction the waves are coming from… Navigating your company without consistent points of reference is like trying to find direction in the middle of an ocean with a map, but no compass and no sextant* – maybe you will find the Lost City of Atlantis, but more likely you will end up with your very own Wilson.

Hiring the right employee – one who understands and compliments the company culture – will reinforce the company mission and vision while creating a more cohesive team.

But again, you ask how?!

First, spend some time analyzing your team. Take note of how your company’s values are translated into actions and put these observations down on paper! This will help you develop an in-depth understanding of what type of people you should be looking to hire. Communicate this information with you hiring team, ensure that they have an in-depth understanding of the company’s culture, values, and their corresponding actions and indicators.

Once you are in the interview process, utilize behaviour-based interview questions to ascertain how candidates have handled themselves and situations in the past.

Behaviour-based interview questions differ from traditional interview questions in that they are based on discovering how the candidate acted in specific employment-related situations. You’ve probably been in an interview where these types of questions have been put to you:

  • Describe yourself in three words.
  • What is your ideal work environment?
  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake. How did you address it and what did you learn?
  • What is your favourite aspect of your current position?
  • What do you like best about our company?
  • How do you define success?
  • Give one example of a time where you worked as a part of a team.
  • Describe a work culture or environment in which you would not be happy.

Questions like these will help flush out those skills you are looking for in the right candidate for your work culture.

It is also important to communicate the company’s core values and work culture to your potential candidates. Without this open two-way communication you can end up in a sticky situation where your shiny new employee’s understanding of the company work culture is very different from the reality. This is always a risk when on-boarding new hires, sometimes the way candidate interviews is quite different than the reality of their actions – and this is why probation periods exist. It happens, to the best of us – at no fault to either party usually.

Finding the right candidates with the right cultural fit isn’t easy, but it is worth it. Employees that fit and add to your company culture are engaged, they “ …work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.”** Because, at the end of the day, it really does Start With People.

*Sextant: an instrument with a graduated arc of 60° and a sighting mechanism, used for measuring the angular distance between objects and especially for taking altitudes in navigation.

** GALLUP Report: State of the American Workplace, “Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders” http://www.gallup.com/services/176708/state-american-workplace.aspx


Katie Penstone is the Communications Manager at Morris Interactive.