How to Interview for Culture Fit

team high fives

Assessing candidates’ “culture fit” is becoming more important everywhere, and the best way to measure culture fit is the Topgrading Interview.

With record lows in unemployment, you know it’s getting harder and harder to attract high performers, A Players, at all levels of companies in the US. Global clients say that as the business world shrinks, with mobility of talent and the ability of workers everywhere to communicate virtually, the importance of culture fit is increasing. As Fred Mouawad, CEO of Synergia One Group, with 6 companies in 16 countries, said, “We stress assessing culture fit for two reasons. One, to determine if a candidate will be productive in a job long-term, and two, to attract the best candidates, who are equally determined to join companies where they will fit.” Fred says that Topgrading “nails” culture fit, enabling his 6 companies to hire almost all A Players.

Unfortunately, common ways to measure culture fit are “so-so” ineffectiveness.

Culture fit tests. A variety of culture fit tests are available, with no solid case studies showing candidates with passing scores fit better than ones who don’t. In other words, the so-called culture fit tests haven’t shown they help you hire better. Trouble is, candidates go to the company website and learn their core values and key competencies. And they can go to and other sites where employees anonymously say what the culture is like, what employees like and dislike about the company, etc. So, it’s easy for any selection candidate to fake the culture fit tests.

Personality Tests. Personality tests are used as culture fit tests. Candidates take personality tests and HR tries to guess whether the candidate’s personality profile fits with the personality profiles of high producers. Trouble is, if there is a minimum score required, a cutoff score, personality tests reject as many A Players as C Players. In other words, the personality tests do not work in reality. Why? Google “How to pass personality tests” and you’ll see a thriving industry helping candidates game the tests. You can take practice personality tests and the apps will tell you how to lie; to change your answers to fit what the company is looking for.

Interview Questions to Assess Culture Fit don’t work. Google “culture fit interview questions” and you’ll see questions like these:

  1. Describe a work environment in which you are most productive and happy.
  2. Describe the management style that will help you be most productive and happy.
  3. What is the single most important factor that must be present in a work environment for you to be happy and successful?
  4. What is your preferred work style – what is the ideal percentage of time for you to work alone versus in teams?
  5. Describe a time when you delighted a customer.
  6. What is your leadership style?

Trouble is, again, candidates simply go to the employer’s website, check out their values and mission, and then go to Glassdoor to see what employees say about the company and they can easily fake their answers to conform to the company’s stated culture.

Topgrading is the best method to measure culture fit. Candidates are motivated to tell the truth, the “culture fit” questions refer to real occurrences, and your conclusions about culture fit are verified (or not) in honest reference calls with the candidates’ managers.

With Topgrading, candidates are told from the start that a final step in hiring is for THEM to arrange reference calls with their managers and others the interviewers want to talk with. BOOM! The “Topgrading Truth Motivator” is used. Low performers drop out (good!) and it’s easy to focus on the honest, high performers who will not fake answers.

The Topgrading Interview, using the Topgrading Interview Guide, is chronological, covering education years and then all jobs. For every job the questions include fit questions such as:

  • Why did you take that job? (Follow-up: What about the job itself – the company, the culture, your manager, the opportunities, and location – what attracted you?)
  • What did you like most about the job? (get specifics)
  • What did you like least? (get specifics)
  • Keeping in mind that we might ask you to arrange an interview with Pat Jones (manager), how would she a) rate your overall performance and b) what would she list as your strengths and weaker points? How would you describe Pat in terms of what you liked most and least about her as your manager?
  • Why did you leave that job? What were your hopes and expectations for your next job – the type of company and culture, and your specific responsibilities?

After a thorough review of all the jobs:

  • What would an ideal next job be like?
  • How does our job stack up against your ideal?

Those Topgrading interview questions, answered honestly as they are because of the Topgrading Truth Motivator, will tell you all you need to know about whether the candidate will fit your culture.

But you’re not done yet! After all the company interviews, the candidate arranges reference calls with managers, peers, direct reports – anyone YOU want to talk with. The Topgrading Reference Check Guide includes culture fit questions, risky interview questions, and you follow up with as many specific questions as you want to determine if this candidate will be an A Player in your job, in your company, with its unique culture, and reporting to you, with your leadership style. And of course, being an A Player requires excellent fit.

Improve your hiring success with Topgrading. Our proven hiring process will transform your selection methodology so that you get better hiring results.  Our leadership and candidate assessment tools will help you assess, hire, retain, and grow outstanding team members. Contact us to learn more!

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