Platypus in action

How to ask the right questions on culture when you interview

Knowing a candidate's values upfront allows you to recruit strategically, predict candidate success, and reduce unconscious bias. In this guide, we explain how to interview for the optimal cultural alignment using Platypus.

December 17, 2020
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5
min. read
Illustration by Signe Valentin Andersen

Hiring for culture is about strategy and candidate success

Culture is a significant factor in candidate success. Finding a candidate that will thrive in your culture can determine whether they will stick around or are likely to be disengaged

Focusing on culture in the recruitment process is about making sure that two things are in place: 

  1. That the candidate will be able to thrive and be productive in this role and in your organization. 
  2. That the candidate will be a positive force in the culture of the team and organization supporting the strategy and values of the company as a whole. 
Platypus gives you an upfront assessment of how well any candidate will match or impact your culture by measuring cultural alignment.

Cultural alignment doesn’t mean agreeing on everything, having the same preferences or being a social fit. Being culturally aligned means that as employees and co-workers we can align on the things that are important to our work and our working lives even though we differ. 

Focusing on cultural alignment supports a variety of strategic goals that you can impact with your recruitment efforts.

You might want to: 

  • Guide the existing culture of a team in a new direction by strategically hiring a candidate with different values. An example might be an organization that lacks age diversity and has a very strong focus on career progression. A strategic choice could be to hire managers that prioritize flexibility to encourage a different focus and allow for new practices to take hold.  
  • Support a well-functioning team by hiring new team members that won’t rock the boat. An example of this could be a team that thrives on active collaboration. In this case, you’ll want to know whether a newcomer will thrive in such a collaborative environment or whether they will just long to be able to go deep on individual projects (and start looking for a job where they can do that). 
  • Keep track of how your company culture will change in the process of growing massively. In this case, your focus could be to make sure that you hire candidates that will support the core values that have made your company succesful up until now. 
  • Design a culture that will work as you scale your organization and will likely also need employees that are motivated by other things than those who joined when you were a startup trying to launch a rocket. 

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to setting strategic goals on culture. Knowing where you want to go, what values are key to your organization, is crucial. 

Platypus is all about giving you the data-driven insights to manage these processes in a way that is unbiased, informed and supports good candidate experience, to make sure that you actually reach those goals. 
Based on candidates' Platypus Print you can shortlist those who match your criteria.

Why interviewing about values needs to be data-driven

Interviewing a candidate with Platypus puts you in a unique position: You already know how well a candidate is aligned with your organization. 

You don’t have to probe to assess whether they will be torchbearers for exactly those values that are crucial to your culture. Or the opposite, if they’ll try to pull your team or organization in a direction that you're not minded to go. Or if you simply can’t offer them what they really need to thrive. 

For your own part, with the Platypus Culture Map, you already have a detailed picture of your company culture across the entire organization and in the specific team you’re hiring for. You can enter into this interview knowing both what is core to your company values and what is important to the people of the specific team. 

Platypus gives you overview of your organizational culture and allows you to filter on teams and multiple other variables.
In other words, you have a tour guide telling you what to look for and a map pointing you in the right direction. 

Knowing the core values of a candidate before you enter the interview has several advantages: 

  • Trust is established because you can acknowledge the candidate’s top priorities upfront. You can go straight to the core, save time, and talk about what is important to the success of this candidate. It makes conversations more meaningful and genuine. 
  • People rarely know what they truly care about when put on the spot. That’s why the Platypus Print is created by asking candidates to go through several stages of prioritization. Finding out what really matters to you is all about being faced with tough choices while keeping your head cool. Something that’s hard to do in a regular interview setting. 
  • It reduces unconscious bias because the Platypus matching algorithm will guide you towards candidates that are objectively aligned with the values of your organization, rather than rely on a subjective assessment in the interview process.   

So what questions can you ask in the interview to go deeper? 

Focus on what’s important to the candidate - and where you differ

Interviewing for culture should aim at getting a better idea of how this candidate’s experiences and priorities will match the role you need to fill and the environment in which they need to be able to thrive. 

Focus on going deeper on what the candidate’s top priorities actually mean in practice. What does a satisfying learning environment look like to them? What made this particular environment work so well for them? How does that relate to what they can expect working with you?

Generally speaking, you should focus on two topics: 

  1. What does this top priority mean to the candidate? 
  2. This is what you can – and can’t – expect from us. 
Here are some questions that can open up conversations on each of the 12 values in the Platypus Print

Priorities are often shaped by past experiences or best articulated by reference to specific events or setups. Use this tactic to get specific. What worked, what didn’t work? And be straightforward about how you do things. Does the candidate thrive on a big team with a lot of collaborators to spar with? Then they might not be a match as a lone specialist on a multi-disciplinary team. So, engage in a conversation to go deeper.

  • Structure: Have you ever worked for an organization where you felt that the organizational structure was either too loose or too rigid? How did this impact you?
  • Leadership: What is most important to you: A leader that provides you with inspiration and guidance, or who will give you concrete sparring and feedback? What are your experiences with either? 
  • Career: How would we best support your ambitions: By helping you advance and grow your impact internally or by making sure that you keep on having a high market value? 
  • Compensation: Have you ever felt unfairly or inadequately compensated? Why? 
  • Collaboration: Do you prefer to have close sparring partners or to collaborate with a lot of different people across the organization? 
  • Learning: Can you describe a position where you felt you could learn and grow professionally? What made this a good learning environment for you? 
  • Relationships: Do you usually build personal friendships with colleagues and socialize outside of work hours? Or does relationships with colleagues mean something else to you?  
  • Flexibility: What makes flexibility a priority to you? What kind of flexibility do you need? 
  • Well-being: How much emphasis does your current/former employer have on well-being? How does this suit you? Have you been missing anything? 
  • Inclusivity: Are there any aspects of inclusivity that are more important to you than others? 
  • Mission: What made you interested in us and our mission? 
  • Impact: What kind of roles and organizations have you thrived most in previously? What kind of impact have you had in those roles?

Remember, the purpose of these questions is not to vet the candidate or get a “correct” answer, but to get a starting point for a conversation. And there are many more that you could ask. You should aim for both you and the candidate to get specific in order to align on mutual expectations. 

If you have any questions or if you're curious about how Platypus would work for your organization don’t hesitate to book a demo here

Written by
Sigrid
Leilund

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