blog image

4 Slightly Provocative And Politely Probing Questions To Ask At Interview That Will Help You Assess A Candidate’s Cultural Fit



So, you think you’ve found the perfect candidate for your role. They’re qualified, they’re experienced. Heck, their initials are A.C.E. But, how do you know if they’ll fit in with your company’s culture?

You don’t. Not unless you do some probing.

Well, consider this your very own polite probe list, as we lay out the best questions you can ask a candidate during their interview, which will almost certainly help you gauge whether they’re likely to fit in with your culture.

But, before we divulge our expertly curated set of probe-ables to you, let’s first understand why company culture thinks it’s all that.


Why Is Company Culture So Important?

There’s no denying the term “hiring for cultural fit” has become a trendy little buzz phrase lately, and it’s no surprise when you consider just how many companies consider their “culture” as their USP.

You might know that Google have sleeping pods and Zappos offers new employees $2000 to quit after the first week of training if they decide the job isn’t for them. You may have heard Twitter likes to have rooftop meetings and Facebook offers on-site laundry services.

But in truth, company culture goes way beyond anything tangible like that – it’s a sense of togetherness and shared ambition that’s palpable when you walk through the office doors, (or, if a virtual business, clearly demonstrated in their online presence).

You also need to be able to define what your company culture is, which is a brilliant exercise to do, if you haven’t already, and can include things such as your company’s values, as a whole and as individuals, as well as the character traits you value most. Oftentimes, this can be hard to pinpoint, but, if you really think about it you’ll notice that the most effective people in your company share similar traits.

For example, at Syncopate, we’ve recognised our company culture to be centred on inclusion and flexibility; we really do try to cater to everyone’s individual needs, whether that’s flexible working around family life, or working from home when possible; the more flexible we are, the more committed we find our team.

Your company’s culture, therefore, is a feeling, and, in order to know whether someone new will fit into that feeling, you yourself have to feel it to believe it.

Here’s how…


Question #1: Tell Me Something About Yourself That Isn’t On Your CV Or Cover Letter

This question has the power to make you stand up and applaud, or stand up and point to the door, (which we hope, for your sake, is the former).

By asking this question, there’s so much that you can gauge about the candidate’s personality, such as their sense of humour, their charisma, their values and, if you’re lucky, their story-telling abilities.

Pay attention to how you feel about the candidate’s response – how candid they came across and whether or not you actually believed them (!) and make some notes which you can then refer back to after the interview.

As recruiters, we’ve seen many people “blubber” their way through answering questions like this as they feel they have to make up things to sound interesting. If they avoid eye contact, speak in vague terms, or speak really quickly making very little sense, it could be a sign they’re not being entirely truthful!


Question #2: What’s Your Idea Of The Perfect Work Social Event? 

If your company is one that enjoys regular work socials, then this is an excellent question to determine whether the candidate is on your wavelength.

By asking this question, you’re letting the candidate know that your company has a culture of social gettogethers, and from their answer, you’ll be able to determine whether or not you think they’d fit into that.

You might get rather generic responses, such as “a few beers after work”, or more elaborate ones, such as “a day go-carting followed by sushi and karaoke”, but either way, you’ll quickly be able to tell whether they’re the type that will include themselves in such things.

Of course, people aren’t obliged to attend extra-curricular work gettogethers, however if it’s something you believe helps the team bond and you know for a fact your team love them, then inviting someone else into the company who would also like to do this can only be a good thing.


Question #3: If You Were The CEO Of This Company, What’s The One Thing You’d Make Mandatory?

We LOVE this one!

This question is deliberately open-ended, ever-so-slightly provocative and certainly politely probing, and what’s more, it could swing between something really humorous and trivial, such as “everyone has to wear fancy dress to work at the end of each quarter” to something serious and potentially terrifying, such as “everyone must share their internet search history at the end of the day”.

The response you get to this question will definitely help you assess the type of character the candidate is and whether or not they’d gel well with the current team.


Question #4: At Work, What Would You Consider To Be Your Biggest Pet-Hate?

Oh boy, can of worms, much?

This question is certainly provocative, and comes with its own warning: don’t ask it unless you’re willing to accept you might not like what you hear…in response to which you might say “well why ask it?”

The truth is, culture fit works both ways between you and the candidate and this question normalises the inevitability that things aren’t always OK, and that’s OK – a culture which we all should aspire to create.

If you show the candidate that your culture is one of acceptance and open-mindedness, then the response you receive to this question should go a long way to assessing whether or not they’d be the right fit for your environment.

For example, if someone said “I don’t like it when I’m micro-managed”, you can appreciate their truth and work out whether that’s something that can be accepted within your current leadership styles.

What’s more, it can even open up the doors of communication for you to evaluate how happy people are in general with the existing management styles in your company and whether anything needs to be changed.

However, if someone went a lot further here and said that they hate being asked to work late, then, if that’s something you often do because it’s unavoidable and the nature of your work demands it, then you’ll know for a fact that the candidate might not be the right fit.


Hiring For Your Own Company’s Cultural Fit

If you’re currently looking to expand your team and you believe that finding the right person who will fit into your company’s culture is really important, then you’re smart to think that way.

Too many times we see companies jump the gun and hire without assessing the candidate’s cultural fit within the company, and trust us, it’s not long before the cracks start to show.

Here at Syncopate, we go to great lengths to ensure cultural fit is thoroughly assessed before recommending candidates, saving time and headaches.

If you’d like to speak to one of our friendly team about how we do this, then please email or call us on +44(0) 1234 567898, or alternatively, check out our website to get a better feel of what could be on offer for you.


Enagage With Us

Our Insights

succession planning blog image
C-suite leaders assemble image
the pros and cons of office based and wfh working

Succession planning – it’s like playing chess, but instead of pieces on a board, you’re dealing with actual people and…

Assemble, Fintech start-ups. The fate of your company rests on the strength of your executive team, and it’s time to…

Can you remember the days when working from home was a luxury, second only to the blissful feels of a…


Our Partners