Hire for cultural fit


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A company’s culture is the byproduct of the collective actions, behaviors, and decision-making of its employees. And employees’ actions, behaviors, and decisions are informed by the organization’s guiding statements and core values. To sustain a desired culture, even as employee turnover introduces a constant stream of new faces, it’s imperative that those responsible for hiring pose effective interview questions.

Most sophisticated organizations have a mission, vision, or purpose statement and a set of core values. (If yours doesn’t, then start there.) These ideals reinforce a desired culture and serve as a touchstone for decision-making. Hiring managers should construct questions that will confirm the applicant’s previous behavior and decision-making are aligned with the organization’s guiding statements, core values, and culture.

When you’re screening applicants to fill a job role, what types of questions do you prepare in advance to guide the interview? If you’re like most hiring managers, your list includes time-honored questions like these:

“Tell me about yourself.”

“What are your strengths?”

“Where do you see yourself in three years?”

These questions are fine, but they give applicants a lot of wiggle room to embellish and may not provide evidence that they’re a cultural fit.

A more effective approach is to craft behavioral interview questions that are linked to your organization’s guiding statements, core values, and culture. Being that the best indicator of future performance is past performance, applicants’ responses to behavioral questions contain greater integrity than responses to hypothetical or sweeping, open-ended questions that showcase applicants’ storytelling abilities.

Behavioral interview questions are designed to reveal applicants’ actual experience demonstrating a particular quality or behavior in their previous job role, rather than posing general questions that prompt imagined responses.


For example, Hyatt’s organizational purpose is: “To care for people so they can be their best.”

This purpose statement may yield interview questions centered on the applicant’s ability to demonstrate care, support, and teamwork, such as:

“Give an example of a time when you helped a customer to succeed.”

“What did you do in your previous management role to help a team member reach his or her potential?”

“How have you gone out of your way to support colleagues from another department or division at your previous employer?”


And Hyatt’s mission statement reads: “To deliver distinctive experiences for our guests.”

This mission statement may prompt interview questions targeting the applicant’s ability to provide unique, exclusive, and bespoke experiences, such as:

“Tell me about a time when you elevated a product or service offering from ordinary to remarkable. What did you do?”

“Describe a time when you, as a customer, saw an opportunity for a routine, cookie-cutter service offering to be enhanced. What was the offering and how would you enhance it?”

“Give an example of a distinctive experience that you experienced as a customer. What made it stand out?”

Core values

Hyatt’s core values are: respect, integrity, humility, empathy, creativity, and fun.

These values may shape interview questions aimed at the applicant’s tendency to reflect them in their past actions, behaviors, and decision-making, such as:

“Tell me about a time in your previous job role when you were conscious about acting with integrity. What was the situation and how did you respond?”

“Give an example of a time at your previous job when someone pointed out that you were wrong. How did you respond?”

“Describe a time when a team member came to you with a personal problem. What happened next?”


As it applies to Hyatt, or any large organization with far flung locations, the culture of any one property, even as it draws from the organization’s guiding statements and core values, is influenced by the unique personality and priorities of local leadership.

I once worked for a hotel general manager who challenged team members to think like owners and rewarded entrepreneurial behavior. He instituted a unique commission structure in the sales department to reward client retention, added incentive pay for those who cross-trained to serve in multiple job roles, and offered cash bonuses for quality improvement suggestions that were implemented.

Because the general manager championed innovation, taking risks, and other entrepreneurial behaviors, members of his executive committee did the same in their areas of responsibility. Eventually, this mindset permeated the entire hotel.

A local culture that rewards ambition and challenges the status quo may inspire interview questions focused on the applicant’s tendency to display initiative, such as:

“Describe a time when you took action to rectify a problem, even though it wasn’t your responsibility.”

“Give an example of a time at your previous job when your extra effort was recognized by a customer or coworker.”

“Tell me about a time when you identified a way to improve an existing process at your last job. What did you do?”

Pepper your upcoming interviews with behavioral questions that are linked to your organization’s guiding statements, core values, and culture. You will gain better insight into whether applicants imagine they will respect, honor, and uphold these tenets in their on-the-job behavior and decision making—or will actually do it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Curtin
Steve Curtin is the author of Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary. He wrote the book to address the following observation: While employees consistently execute mandatory job functions for which they are paid, they inconsistently demonstrate voluntary customer service behaviors for which there is little or no additional cost to their employers. After a 20-year career with Marriott International, Steve now devotes his time to speaking, consulting, and writing on the topic of extraordinary customer service.


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