Three Keys to Interviewing for a Culture Fit


When it comes to work experience, acquired skills, and education, you’ll probably come across a lot of resumes that check all your boxes. The next step is evaluating which candidates will fit into your culture. You’ll want to hire someone who treats their staff well, who takes care of themselves, and who desires the same thing for your staff that you do.

You can’t find it on a resume, so how can you tell if someone fits your staff culture before you hire?

1. Ask questions with no “right” answer

You’ll want to know about your candidate’s true passions, motivations, and theology. These are the qualities that you won’t be changing by hiring someone. If these qualities align with yours, you have a potential culture fit. Ask questions that can’t be answered on a resume, like these: 

“Name your three top passions in life.” “What are you currently reading?” “What is your ideal work environment?” “What does work-life balance mean to you?” “What do you find to be motivational at work?” 

These types of open-ended personal questions encourage your candidates to speak honestly about themselves. 

These questions also point right to what’s important – whether or not the candidate is a good fit. The interviewee’s answers should give you insight into who they are, not their effort to impress you.

2. Change the setting

Get to know the real person, not just the nervous interviewee, before you lock in your decision. If you like what you see on paper and hear in the interview, work to get to know this person. Their personality and attitude will contribute the most to your culture. It will take time to start to understand their heart and mind, so it’s worth investing early in this time. 

Take the next round of interviews in a coffee shop, take the candidate to lunch, or even bring the candidate into the offices to meet the staff during a party or event. These non-traditional settings will allow the interviewee to set aside any nervousness and allow them to be their more casual friendly selves. You’ll get to see how this person talks to others, how your candidate talks about the people in their life, and best of all, you can ask your staff what they think of the candidate after meeting them.

Interviewing for culture is not about checking boxes on a resume, and a culture fit isn’t always the product of experience or education. If someone does not fit in your organization’s culture, it does not mean they wouldn’t do the job well. You’re looking for an opportunity to reinforce your staff’s specific core values. Understanding this will help you to prioritize expanding the interview process to get to know the individual.

3. Make your culture clear 

Candidates are looking to see if they fit with you, too. Nobody wants to join a culture they don’t fit into. If it’s a fit, both sides should see it. Make your core values evident on your website, applications, and in the interview process. As you evaluate the candidate, they will evaluate you, asking themselves, “Do I want to work here?”

If your staff culture is not already evident, consider this is a sign that you need to work on developing a stronger culture. Every organization’s culture will be different, but when it comes to service and ministry, a few things should remain the same. You’ll want to cultivate a culture that communicates generosity, prioritizes employee wellness, and invites others to join. Ultimately, how you communicate your culture is your greatest asset in attracting candidates who will fit in. If they fit, they should tell you, and if they don’t, they may walk away.

These three keys should push you to see the person behind all the papers. If these essentials shape your approach to interviewing, you are sure to spot a culture fit before you hire.

As you invite new employees onto your team, and as you sustain your current staff, ask yourself whether the culture you offer is something you can claim confidently. You should be acutely aware of your culture’s areas of improvement and strengths to celebrate. If that’s not you, and you don’t know where to begin, visit our Culture Tool for help understanding and growing your staff’s culture.