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Best Culture Hiring Tips

Culture may seem airy-fairy and nebulous, but it is an important part of hiring for the long-term. Although a candidate may be able to technically perform the tasks you need from him or her, their ability to gel with the team, get behind the purpose of the company and bring energy and enthusiasm to work every day is directly related to their cultural fit.

In this article, we give you some ideas on how to hire for culture during your interview process.

What Is Your Culture?

Defining the culture you have today takes a bit of honesty and soul searching. You may have documented your core values, but what are the values that your company truly embraces on a day to day basis? What makes your company unique and what is it that your employees rally behind?

Culture starts with the core values that are understood, acted on and reinforced by the decisions and actions of everyone. Layered on top of core values is the personality of your company. What is your dress code? What is your style of engagement with customers and each other? Are you formal or informal? Are you conservative or casual?

Together, the combination of your core values and your corporate personality form your culture. You can learn a lot about your real culture simply by people watching. How does your company interact with each other and customers? What assumptions do employees make in their day to day activities? What beliefs do they have about the company, it’s purpose and the expectations on them?

Once you have identified the parts of your culture you want to spread, you can adapt your hiring process to look for people who resonate with your desired culture.

Who Best Reflects Your Culture Now?

Everyone wants to clone someone at their company. Who are your star players and why? What is it about them that makes them special? What part of their positive traits aligns with your culture?

Although not every star player will fit a certain recipe, you are trying to find the words that describe the  culture fit you are looking for. To get an even better idea of your culture, consider asking your star players to perform a cultural interview with your candidates. Then listen closely to their feedback.

What type of people do they want to work with and why? What don’t they like about some candidates? Their feedback can be a great leading indicator of what your culture actually is.

Ask Questions That Demonstrate Core Values

For core values, I suggest that you tell your candidates up-front what the company core values are and how you see the values demonstrated on a daily basis. There is no benefit in playing cat and mouse, because people act based on values but can’t often articulate what their personal values actually are.

In general, you can ask your candidates to talk about the culture of their past positions and what they liked and didnt’t like. Ask them if they value culture and if so, how good culture made them a more valuable and happier employee. You can also ask them about the type of culture they are looking for, why that motivates them, the culture they don’t like, as well as why they think they would or wouldn’t be a good fit for your culture.

Do Something Different

It is one thing to tell a candidate about your culture, but it is another thing to show them and let them participate live. See if you can find a creative way to get your candidates interacting with your star players in a real work situation that not only helps evaluate them but also gives you value.

Possible examples could be a real software design session, a short hack-a-thon project, or creating a lunch and learn presentation on a particular topic.  You could choose to do this with one candidate at a time or all candidates at once. Not only does this allow you to see how people truly respond, it lets your candidates see your culture in action. If you have a strong culture, this can be a huge selling point for you.

Considering People Who Show Strong Opinions

When you interview for soft skills, it is easy to be lulled into hiring for people you like. Although it is great to work with people you like, you ultimately are building a team that benefits the company, not your after hours frisbee golf team.

With that being said, it is easy to be hesitant about hiring people with strong opinions. They tend to cause tension and conflict, and can step on people’s toes. But opinionated people tend to be smart people who are passionate and stand up for their ideas.


Culture does matter. Consider taking the time to define and articulate your current and desired culture, and then bring this awareness into your hiring process.

Not all technologists are right for all positions. Beyond skill-set and experience, you also should consider cultural fit.

If you are thinking about hiring a software professional and are wondering how you can find someone who will work well in your organization, take a look at our checklist below.


software checklist

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