Surprising Questions Great Companies Use to Hire Well

Great companies look at the skill and the will of the potential hire, but they spend just as much time on cultural fit. And many use these four simple questions to determine that fit.

When most people go about the process of hiring on a new employee, they tend to focus on “skill” and “will.” In other words, they look at what skills a person has–like their experience, areas of expertise, and other things they list on their resume–as well as whether that person is willing and interested in working for the company.

But there’s a third category of analysis that most people tend to leave out: culture fit. And frankly, if you want to spend a large amount of your life in contact with them. You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your employees!

While we didn’t know it at the time, the most important thing we ever got graded on back in kindergarten was how well we worked and played with others. The same thing is true when it comes to making great hires.

We all know people who are incredibly bright and competent, but who are also not very nice people. They tend to be selfish and self-absorbed and seem to suck the energy out of the room. You simply don’t want to spend time with them. I call people like this “cultural terrorists” because of the damage they can wreak on an organization. That’s why the best companies do everything they can to avoid hiring these people in the first place.

But how do you know how to assess whether someone is a cultural fit or not?

I’ve found that the companies who do the best job at screening potential hires for cultural fit ask some variation of these four simple questions:

Would I like to have a cocktail with this individual? The best interviewers begin by asking whether they’d be willing to spend an hour or so talking casually with this person after work. Are they interesting enough to have a conversation with? Or are they difficult to deal with, socially awkward, or even so self-absorbed you can’t get a word in edgewise?

Would I play a round of golf with them? Golf is not only a great way to spend a day networking and talking shop; it’s also an investment of four to five hours of your time. Is this person someone you’d be willing to ride along in a cart with or even walk beside for that long? If you don’t play golf, substitute, “go to a baseball game” and see if you are excited or thinking of ways to get out of it.

Would you sit next to this person on a flight to Tokyo? Upping the stakes even higher here, but is this the kind of person you could tolerate chatting with over an 11-hour international flight or would you be tempted to lock them (our yourself) in the bathroom instead?

Would you want this person in your foxhole? It’s one thing to ask yourself how you might get along with someone in the best of times. But how do you think this person would react to the worst of them? If you found yourself in the middle of a battlefield, say, with bullets and explosions all around you, do you think you could count on this person to watch your back? Will they remain cool and collected or will they freak out and run for the hills? Assessing how someone might react to a stressful situation is critical for every entrepreneur to ask because sooner or later, you’ll be facing that kind of situation in your business. And you’ll want to count on your team to stand their ground no matter what the odds are.

Now if you can answer yes to all four of these questions, and the candidate also passes the skill and will test, what are you waiting for: make the offer!

But, if you hesitated on answering any of these culture fit type questions, and questioned whether you would truly enjoy working with this person, then just say no. After all, life is too short to work with people you don’t like.

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