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Unconventional Interview Techniques Can Measure Cultural Fit

Nov. 25, 2016
It’s vital to be able to recognize a strong fit for your company.

Culture fitting means hiring someone who fits within the organizational culture of the company. These days, it has become a critical factor in the hiring process since studies have shown employees who fit the company culture increase employee engagement and add value as individual contributors as well as team players.

Many companies, including some in the material handling industry, believe that culture fit is more important than skills because the right skills, while preferred, can be taught. However, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to teach someone to fit into your corporate culture.

While standard methods used to measure culture fit still apply, including performance-based interviews, fit testing and social media networks, some organizations have gotten quite creative and are using unconventional methods to assess a job candidate’s cultural suitability.

One global manufacturer of material handling equipment requires job candidates to spend hours answering questions from a dozen employees about their past work experience, interests, social media presence, activities outside of work, etc. Since half of U.S. workers spend more time with co-workers than with their families, this company wants to make sure they’re spending time with people they like.

According to the Wall Street Journal, G Adventures Inc., an adventure travel company, asks candidates to climb into a two-foot plastic ball pit, similar to those at Chuck E. Cheese, in order to join some team members of G Adventures in tossing the balls around. In addition, they may be asked to do something out of the ordinary while in the pit, like demonstrating the latest dance moves.

Zappos, a billion dollar, online shoe and clothing shop based in Las Vegas, does “social testing.” For example, they might invite a potential hire to spend time with their employees in a variety of social settings for up to four months before they are hired. This way, they will meet and spend time with a multitude of Zappos’ people who will assess whether they fit in with the rest of the team. In addition, they offer all new hires $3,000 to leave the company after one month of work. There is, however, one stipulation—take the money and never come back. Zappos does this as a test to ensure they selected the right hires. 97% of new hires take the job over the cash, which means they are the real deal and exactly who Zappos wants.

Some other companies, including our own, make a point of asking unusual interview questions. For example, “What were you doing the last time you looked at a clock and realized you had lost all track of time?” “What movie, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, do you have to watch when it’s on?” “If you were an animal, what kind would you be, and why?” These odd questions are meant to probe whether a candidate will fit into the organization or not.

What these companies are showing us is how important hiring for culture fit really is. If you perceive that a candidate would make a meaningful contribution to your company while maintaining decorum, that candidate might be a cultural match. It’s truly vital to be able to recognize a strong fit for your company.

Dan Charney is the president and CEO of Direct Recruiters Inc. (DRI), an executive search firm for companies specializing in material handling and logistics, packaging, capital equipment, and automation systems.

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