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Mar 6, 2019
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

The majority of hiring managers are pretty bad at interviewing. Let’s face it. It’s at the bottom of their list of priorities, and it is something they would like to get over with as soon as possible. We all met those hiring managers who claim they could decide if the candidate is a cultural fit within the first two seconds.

Yeah, the cultural fit. The dreaded phrase, the inexplicable rejection criteria. It always leaves you stuttering on the phone when you are rejecting the candidate. The truth is that the majority of hiring managers are looking for a buddy. Their personal biases kicked in. Instead of evaluating whether the candidate is the best fit for the company, they judge if they would go for a beer.

Sounds familiar? I am sure it does. So how can we make sure that we end this “going-out-for-a-beer” kind of bias? I have been involved in recruiting for software companies in hyper-growth for a while. In my never-ending battle against the “going-out-for-a-beer” bias one approach has proven to give me an upper hand values-based hiring.

Values-based hiring

How can you use values-based hiring as a recruiter to make sure that you will evaluate cultural fit better? It all starts with defining your corporate/company/core values. You name it. You can do it in many ways.

Run focus groups, surveys or workshops involving the whole company. Yes, you have read that one correctly. The entire company. Not just that bunch of C-levels who live up there in the ivory tower. Good chance is that people that work for your company already know what values help them be successful at your workplace. Bring them together so they can talk about it and come up with something in common.

I am sure that this process is quite familiar with many companies. They define their values this way, but that’s it. They don’t touch them anymore. Then they usually end up at some internal or external corporate website at best. And here is where I see the challenge.

We can do much more. At Mollie, the company where I work now our values are courage, impact, honesty, friendship, and passion. Nothing too different from other thousands of other software companies out there, right? The thing is that you cannot screen only for values themselves. You also need to identify the behaviors for each and single value for your organization.

Courage at my company can be expressed differently than at yours. For us, it could be the ability to speak up at meetings and challenge senior leadership. For you, it could be bringing new and crazy innovative ideas every day. Let’s take a look at two examples of how courage can be reflected in behaviours at different companies:

Courage #1

  • You say what you think, even if it is uncomfortable
  • You make tough decisions without agonizing
  • You take smart risks and are open to possible failure
  • You are able to be vulnerable, in search of truth

Courage #2

  • You challenge and evaluate the current way of doing things all the time
  • You give feedback to your colleagues after the meeting/project
  • You are able to challenge the leadership and your manager
  • You address uncomfortable issues immediately

These are two different expressions of courage. After you have identified the behaviours with your team, you can create your own set of questions. They will help you identify if the candidate shares your values.

The first company could ask about an example when the candidate took a smart risk and how did it end up. The second one could ask about an example when the candidate challenge the decision of a leadership. Technology can assist you here as well. Most of the applicant tracking systems offer you the possibility to create scorecards. This way you can predefine the questions and set the ranking, thus make it easier for your team to test the cultural fit. Scorecards will quantify the candidate’s responses and voilà! You can measure the cultural fit.

Courage (How did you challenge the leadership in your last position?)
Innovation (What was the most innovative idea you’ve brought to your team/organization? How did you sell it?)
Team-spirit (How did you help your team when it felt stuck during the project?)
Passion (When and how did you go the extra mile when interacting with a client?)

This is an example of scorecards you can use. Take note of the value and the question which reflects the behavior in the given organization. I also recommend using ranking only from 1 to 4, so you will avoid people sitting in the middle. Comments section give you the possibility to elaborate on your feedback. You can build multiple sets of scorecards for a different stage of the interview process.

This is the way which has proven successful to me. I managed to have a better conversation with hiring managers about the cultural fit. We hired candidates who otherwise would have been rejected.  

P.S. They became one of the top performing folks in the organization. So go out there get your team together, define your values and behaviors, create your own set of questions and quantify them with the scorecards. You will hire the right candidate faster than you can say “cultural fit.” 

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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