How To Hire For Value Fit

By Inge Woudstra

We recently wrote that company values need to be more than a statement – they need to be lived.

Once a company has a set of values that are lived by its people, we want to make sure that new people also fit with those values. In other words,  we want to make sure they are happy to align their personal values with those of our organisation.

But how do we make sure we select for value fit? Values are quite intangible, and asking someone for their values in a job interview may not reveal much. It becomes even more complicated when we realise that we are looking to widen our diversity, rather than select clones of those already in our organisation.

Yet, values are vital when selecting a candidate. Skills can be developed and knowledge can be attained. However, values are a more constant factor in someone’s personality and when values don’t align people will be less likely to be themselves and flourish in our organisation.
Below are five ways to help us recruit for company values.

  1. Hire for culture add rather than culture fit

When we say we are looking for a good fit with the values of our organisation there is a real risk that we are looking for people just like us. After all, we would expect the values of those who are like us to align with our values. So, when we are looking to bring in diverse thinking, and people who challenge our perspectives, we need to rethink the words ‘fit’ and ‘alignment’, and replace them by ‘add’. Consider including ‘culture add‘ as a selection criterion.   Then, in an interview, ask a candidate how they would add to the values and goals of your organisation.

  1. Talk about values and how you live them

When we talk about our values, candidates get a chance to hear what’s important to us. So, we need to find ways to talk about our values in the interview process, and include ways to showcase how we operationalise them.
For instance, talk about how inclusion and belonging are important values for you. Then share how, for this reason, you give every new employee a buddy, invite them to employee resource groups, have a ‘slack’ channel and run regular pulse check surveys. Tell them how the CEO also checks in with new employees 4-6 weeks after joining to listen to the experience of the new hire – and anything else that shows the significance of any particular organisational value.

  1. Build your interview questions around values

Once you have talked about what’s important to you, and how your values are lived in practice, ask a question around that.
For example, say ‘We respect work life balance, so we allow people to choose their own working hours. When you are leading a team, how do you make sure people feel their work life boundaries are respected? How would you still know they are pulling their weight?’

  1. Look for the opposite

Review your company values and consider the opposite. Then look for those candidates who show they behave in a way that doesn’t align with your values.
For example, your value may be ‘Teamwork’. The opposite might be competitiveness. Design a role play, case study or group conversation and look for which candidates show – unhelpful – competitive behaviour.

  1. Listen out for what they know about you and what they ask

Find out what the candidate knows about your company and what attracted them. If they talk about team culture, company ethos and values, that is an indication that your culture resonates with them, rather than just looking for the next role.

The same can be learned from the questions they ask. If their questions are focussed on logistical and practical details only, this may be a red flag. If their questions are about team culture, company culture and mission and how they could best help to contribute to that, that is an indication that aligning with the company value is important to them.

Hiring for value alignment ensures a good culture fit while allowing for diversity in the candidate pool.  This is particularly helpful when inclusion and belonging are strong organisational values – and they often are.  It’s easy to find candidates who are keen to be inclusive and want to contribute to the business with their own experiences and identity (thus, in alignment with the values of inclusion and belonging).  Doing so widens the pool of candidates and also attracts people who don’t look, sound or behave like those already in the organisation.