Interviewing for Character and Culture Fit

Probing Beyond the Hard Skills

I want to share this list of insightful interview questions, adapted slightly from those used by a client[1]. Try asking some of these in your interviews to assess the culture impact of your potential hires:

  1. Describe a skill you feel you are missing.

Can the candidate properly assess himself/herself?  Humble enough to see where a skill is missing?  Desire to learn new skills? Hunger to be better?
Looking for: HUMILITY; SELF-AWARENESS; DESIRE TO IMPROVE; HUNGER

  1. Describe a situation where you had to admit to others that you had made a mistake. How did you handle the situation?

Does the candidate have the humility and integrity to admit mistakes and apologize? Have the people skills to effectively verbalize the admission of mistakes to others? Care enough about the team to be honest for the benefit of the team?
Looking for:  HUMILITY; INTEGRITY; PEOPLE-SMARTS; TEAM; CARING ABOUT PEOPLE

  1. Describe the dynamics of the best team you have been a part of.

Is there humility to put team above self? Indications of caring about fellow team members? A passion regarding team performance; a shared team standard of excellence; results better together than apart? Examples of team innovation?
Looking for: TEAM; HUMILITY; CARING ABOUT PEOPLE; EXCELLENCE; INNOVATION

  1. We all have people that we don’t hate but dislike. Why did/do you dislike a former/current co-worker and how have you dealt with him/her?

Can they explain the dynamics without disparaging the person? Do so in a professional way? Do so while protecting the other person’s reputation? Express empathy or understanding about someone they do not like? 
Looking for: PEOPLE-SMARTS; INTEGRITY; CARING ABOUT PEOPLE

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to make a big adjustment in order to succeed.

Is this person able to be flexible? Innovate or find creative solutions? Have a hunger for excellence that will not be derailed by obstacles?
Looking for:  FLEXIBILITY; INNOVATION AND CREATIVITY; EXCELLENCE; HUNGER

  1. What is a misconception that people may have about you?

How realistic is the candidate’s self-perception? Humble or selfish as they express the misconception? Mature/immature in what they express? Care about how the misconception affects their team or others? Express their concerns about this misconception in a socially appropriate way?
Looking for: SELF-AWARENESS; HUMILITY; CARING ABOUT PEOPLE; PEOPLE-SMARTS; TEAM

  1. Describe the boss who would get the very best from you.

Is the candidate aware of what helps them succeed? Express their relationship with the boss in the context of team? Examples of humility in describing the best boss? Want a boss who holds to high standards vs. coddling them?
Looking for: SELF-AWARENESS; TEAM; HUNGER; HUMILITY; EXCELLENCE

  1. What are you most passionate about?

What gets this person excited? Animated? Truly hungry about? Examples of caring about other people as more important than self? Service-oriented traits? Passion to do something really well? Passion for self-improvement?
Looking for:  PASSION IN GENERAL; CARING ABOUT PEOPLE; EXCELLENCE; HUNGER


[1] Courtesy of Action Property Management
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Four Foundations of a Team

…Success Starts Here

”Team” is one of those words we use too loosely. Or maybe we’re just hopeful that calling a group of people a “team” will magically make them act like one. But becoming an effective team takes intentionality, skill, and hard work.

Whether it’s a project team, a management team, or an operational team, here are four foundations to build a team on: Continue reading Four Foundations of a Team

The Cure for “Too Busy”

The Investment that Pays Back Big…

I’ve written before about dealing with the pervasive problem of being too busy (see http://www.enlumenls.com/say-no/, or the videos at https://youtu.be/IlqgjjR3m68). There is a way to gain significant ground against this problem. Now don’t roll your eyes at me until you’ve heard me out, but I believe the best, most lasting solution to being too busy is… Continue reading The Cure for “Too Busy”

Dangerous Mission Statements

Should You Burn Yours?

I was sitting in a CEO’s office when he excused himself to take an important call.  While he was on the phone, I read through the mission, vision, and values statements hanging on his wall.  When he hung up, I asked, “How do these documents influence what happens out there in the office every day?”

All too predictably, he rolled his eyes and chuckled.  “Not much.”

My advice to him was to do one of three things:
Continue reading Dangerous Mission Statements

Making Tomorrow Easier

Paving Your Path with a Healthy Culture

It happens all the time. A client tells me about a difficult situation they’re dealing with and wants to know what to do. It’s a fair question and I’m happy to help. The sad part is that more often than not, the difficult situation could have been avoided altogether. The sadder part is that it will most likely happen again.
Continue reading Making Tomorrow Easier

Hiring for Culture Fit

What You Don’t See Can Hurt You

From the CEO to the low man on the totem pole, every person we hire has some effect on our organizational culture. Obviously, the higher up the ladder, the greater the opportunity for impact. And one lower-tier person has a lot more impact in a ten person organization than in a 10,000 person organization.

We hire because we need a skill or capacity. So our focus tends to drift toward the hard skills the position requires. But according to most surveys, lacking the skills to do the job is not the top reason people leave their jobs – voluntarily or involuntarily. Character and soft skills are usually the culprits. Yet there isn’t one perfect model of character and soft skills that fits every organization.
Continue reading Hiring for Culture Fit

Selfishly Selfless

Getting Ahead by Putting Others First

C.S. Lewis said, “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.”1

That’s sound advice, but it begs the question, “What are the first things and what are the second things?” As free-thinking individuals, we get to choose what our first and second things are going to be. But our choices have consequences and to make the choice is to accept the consequences of that choice.

When it comes to our careers and growing our organizations, one of those choices is how we’re going to view other people. We can choose: Continue reading Selfishly Selfless

Building on Quicksand

Undermined by the Invisible

Pete couldn’t wait to implement the new project management process his friend Bill told him about.  roll-238142_150After Bill described the incredible success their organization had with it, Pete ran out and bought the book Bill recommended and read it that week.  Replacing their aging donor management system seemed like the perfect project to launch it on.

Fast forward six months…

Pete’s frustrations were at an all-time high.  The original project plan called for the implementation of the new system to be well under way by now.  Instead, they were still arguing over which vendor to select.  How could Bill have been so successful with this methodology that was failing him so miserably?
Continue reading Building on Quicksand

Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill…Now What?

A Tale of Two Leaders

When Jack launched his homeless shelter he had no ideaJack-n-Jill it would grow to house over a hundred people at a time and provide meals and showers for thousands more. He didn’t expect to have a staff of eighteen people and numerous volunteers. But his passion for helping the homeless was contagious. He discovered he was good at raising support, launching creative programs, and recruiting people.

He knew he wasn’t good at the administrative stuff, so he hired people or outsourced those functions. But now he had hit a plateau that he just couldn’t get past.  Continue reading Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill…Now What?