Build a lasting company culture with a smart interviewing & hiring process.

Building Company Culture? Start with the Interview & Hiring Process

Posted June 13, 2016 by Kristin Hoppe in Hiring and Onboarding
The hiring process involves more than just sourcing candidates. Recruiting Toolbox's Ben Gotkin gives his tips on creating a strong interview process.

As a professional with over 20 years of recruiting experience, Ben Gotkin knows the ins and outs of hiring the right people for your team. Now a principal consultant for Recruiting Toolbox, Ben visits Justworks several times a year to offer Justworks’ team indispensable interviewing skills.

As Ben teaches in his consulting classes, interviewing is more than just asking a few questions about a candidate’s resume. It’s about digging deeper to see if the candidate will fit into an organization and help fellow teammates thrive. Ben took some time to speak with us about how to hire for cultural fit, along with the biggest mistake employers make in the hiring process.

We also wrote a whitepaper on how to hire for company culture, which you can download here.

People often mix up the difference between company culture and values. Why is it important to interview for company values as opposed to just "cultural fit"?

Company values typically drive company culture. When we interview for values, we are seeking demonstrated evidence from candidates to determine if their behaviors align with or complement the values that have been defined as being core to an organization’s culture and success.

We are also seeking evidence of how candidates get things accomplished, how they interact with others, and what drives their success. By obtaining evidence of behaviors that align to an organization’s values, ultimately we are also ensuring that the candidate will also likely be a good “cultural fit.”

What is the biggest mistake employers make when interviewing a candidate?

Accepting a candidate’s answer without probing and digging and going deeper for more context. The most critical interviewing skill is ‘digging,’ the art of facilitating a conversation to gain as much detail and context from the candidate as possible.

Digging helps us better understand the situation that they were in, what made the situation challenging, what their specific role was, what the results of the situation were, and how they self-reflect on that experience.

Related article: 10 Recruiting Mistakes to Avoid in the Hiring Process

Most candidates don’t naturally provide this level of detail and context in an interview without prompting, thus making it critical for interviewers to learn the skills and techniques to ‘dig’ and go deep.

What advice would you give a team if they're in disagreement about whether to hire a potential candidate?

First of all, we would want to make sure that we were only evaluating objective information about the candidate that is directly related to the hiring criteria for the job they interviewed for. We want to ensure that the subjective ‘gut’ feelings without supporting evidence aren’t getting in the way.

The most critical interviewing skill is ‘digging,’ the art of facilitating a conversation to gain as much detail and context from the candidate as possible.

We should also determine if the team’s disagreement is based upon lack of skill or experience, or misaligned behaviors and motivators. If the disagreement is over a lack of skill, can we teach that skill and can they learn quickly? If it’s related to behaviors and motivation, those are often innate attributes which you can’t train, and probably wouldn’t want to try to even if you could.

Finally, if it truly is a split decision and a ‘maybe’ decision on the hire, we shouldn’t feel like we should have to settle. Ultimately you need to consider all the tradeoffs involved, the speed of making a hire versus making the best quality hire, and what’s trainable versus what’s not.

Recruiting Toolbox formulates questions specific to each company based on their values. Can you talk about your process to formulate those questions?

It starts with making sure we have the values or behaviors or competencies properly defined first. Some organizations have it defined and we come in and use their definition. In other cases, we go through and extensive discovery process to define what values, behaviors or competencies are common traits among top performers in the company and then work with the company to develop highly relevant definitions, interview questions and answer themes.

Rather than come in with a standard set of interview questions that may or may not be relevant to the company, our approach ensures that the questions that we’re asking or the answers that we’re expecting align what it means to be successful at that company, on that team, in their roles.

Want pro tips on how to hire for company values?

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We also want to make sure if we’re asking about a particular experience or scenario, it would relate to something they’re going to do in that company, something with a prior experience that would give an idea of how they would perform in that position.

Justworks brings Recruiting Toolbox in regularly to train new employees. What skills can a training session offer for the company at large?

One of the most important thing managers can do is select talent for their teams, yet they don’t learn how to do it in school or in college.

Training also helps to ensure that we are achieving two critical elements: speed and quality. It ensures that we understand how the process works, how we can move through an interview efficiently, and to do so in a compliant manner and deliver a great candidate experience.

Ideally, it helps make decisions that are highly aligned to the job itself when we need somebody coming in to be able to hit the ground running. That’s a huge advantage.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.