Hiring Based on Culture Fit

By Team Hireology,
September 7, 2011

The topic of organizational culture has received a lot of buzz lately. Particularly, with regards to hiring. On a regular basis, we ask our customers about their previous hiring practices, and companies typically respond with something along the lines of: “We hire based on culture.”

While all companies report doing this, what’s interesting to us is that “hiring based on culture” means very different things to different people:

Culture = Values: To some, “hiring based on culture” means having interviews with questions surrounding the company’s core values. Take Zappos, for example: Zappos created a “culture interview,” or a series of values-related questions that every candidate must pass in order to be hired for the job. Their culture interview includes one question per value.

Related Questions: “What is the biggest misperception people have of you?” This interview questions is asked by zappos to gage self-awareness, one of their core values. Other related questions get at “Are this candidates values the same as our company values?”


Culture = customs: While others focus on values, some define culture in the more traditional sense. Things like customs, or traditions that make the company environment what it is.

Related Questions: “Hiring based on culture” for these folks might mean asking “Does candidate enjoy working at their desk during lunch (like we do)?” Or, “Does candidate prefer working in an office with his door open (like we do)?” Things along those lines.


Culture = Work Environment For many large companies, the organizational culture or “feel” varies significantly from department to department, or office to office. Unless the company has put a significant effort into its culture initiative, it is unlikely that the company has a consistent set of vales or traditions that can be observed throughout the entire company.

Related Questions: In these cases, “hiring based on culture” means looking for individuals who match the preferences each individual work group. For example, “Will this person mesh with the personalities on our team?” Or, “Does this person work well with a demanding manager?”


Culture Fit = Direction Match Still, others define “hiring based on culture” as measuring the extent to which a candidate’s career goals and experience match the job at hand.

Related Questions: “Does the candidate want a career in a company like ours?”  “Has the candidate worked a job like this one in the past?”

And for some, it’s as simple as: “Does this candidate have good interpersonal skills?” or “Will they get along well with the people in our company?”


While we wish we could recommend one correct way way to “hire based on culture,” the right way is really what works for you: We would not advise hiring based on company values if your culture varies from department to debarment. Conversely, we would not advise hiring based on cultural norms or traditions if those traditions lead to poor performance.

What We Recommend:

Our advice would be to hire based on the competencies, qualities and motivations that lead to success in the specific role at hand. If those happen to be the core values of the company, you’re doing something right!  Hireology helps you create a hiring process that measures culture fit in several different ways. Using our SmartRank survey, Phone screen, Achievements interview and Elements interview, you will be well equipped to hire based on culture fit – in a way that best relates to success on the job at hand.

Once you hire those all-star candidates, learn how to keep them around with our guide to retaining great employees. 

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