What is a Culture Interview and Why Does it Matter?

candidate in a culture interview with hiring manager

In this article, we will dive into what culture interview is and its importance in helping organizations understand the cultural dynamics of a potential team member.

What is a culture interview?

A culture interview is a focused discussion that helps determine if a candidate's personal and professional values match those of your company. Unlike traditional interviews that primarily assess skills and experience, a culture interview digs deeper into understanding a candidate’s attitudes, behaviors, and preferences in a work setting.

It revolves around cultural fit interview questions that explore aspects like work life balance, team cooperation, and problem-solving skills. This interview type is essential for hiring managers to gauge whether a candidate will thrive within the company's culture, adhere to the company's values, and effectively collaborate with co-workers.

Why does a culture interview matter?

Culture interviews are pivotal for maintaining a harmonious workplace culture. They play a significant role in enhancing team dynamics and reinforcing company values.

By focusing on cultural fit, hiring managers can make more informed decisions, leading to hires who are not only competent but also genuinely interested in contributing to the company’s goals. This alignment between a candidate’s values and the company’s culture fosters a positive working environment, increases job satisfaction, and enhances team cohesion.

Moreover, culture interviews can significantly reduce turnover rates. When candidates are a good fit for the company's culture, they are more likely to feel satisfied and valued in their roles, leading to longer tenure and greater loyalty to the company.

This alignment helps in building a stable and motivated team that drives the company forward, emphasizing the importance of integrating culture interviews into the hiring process.

How to conduct a culture interview?

A culture interview can be a game-changer in your hiring process. It's not just about finding someone who can do the job well but also about discovering a candidate who meshes well with your team and embodies your company culture. Here’s a detailed guide on how to effectively conduct a culture interview:

Step 1. Determine the goal

The first step is all about clarity. Understanding what you hope to achieve with the culture interview helps tailor the process to meet specific needs of your organization. Whether you’re looking to enhance team dynamics or ensure alignment with company values, a clear goal sets the direction.

Action points:

  • Identify core values: Reflect on the core values and cultural aspects of your company. What behaviors and mindsets are celebrated?

  • Focus on company needs: Consider what cultural elements are currently missing in your teams and how a new hire could fill those gaps.

  • Set clear objectives: Define what success looks like for this interview. Is it finding someone who innovates, collaborates well, or brings a fresh perspective?

Step 2. Prepare your questions

The questions you ask are the heart of a culture interview. They should delve into areas that reveal a candidate's values, work style, and how these align with your company’s culture. This step ensures you gather the relevant information needed to make an informed decision.

Action points:

  • Develop culture fit interview questions: Craft questions that explore areas like work ethic, response to stressful situations, and preferred working environment.

  • Include hypothetical scenarios: Ask how candidates would handle specific situations that reflect common challenges within your company.

  • Probe for cultural values: Questions should seek to understand the candidate's approach to teamwork, communication style, and conflict resolution.

Step 3. Set up the environment

The setting of the interview can significantly influence the openness and authenticity of the conversation. A comfortable, welcoming environment encourages candidates to be themselves and share honestly.

Action points:

  • Choose a relaxed setting: Opt for a setting that feels more informal and less intimidating than a traditional interview room if possible.

  • Minimize distractions: Ensure the interview space is quiet and private to keep the focus on the conversation.

  • Be welcoming: Start with light conversation to make the candidate feel at ease.

Step 4. Conduct the interview

This is where you actively engage with the candidate to delve deeper into their personal and professional qualities. A well-conducted interview allows for a thorough understanding of how well the candidate’s values align with your company's culture.

Action points:

  • Dialogue, not interrogation: The interview should be conversational, allowing for back-and-forth discussion.

  • Listen actively: Pay attention to the candidate's answers and follow up with questions that probe deeper into key areas.

  • Observe non-verbal cues: Body language and social cues can provide insights into the candidate’s comfort with the topics discussed.

Step 5. Evaluate the responses

The final step is critical as it involves analyzing the information gathered to determine if there is a genuine fit. This evaluation should consider how well the candidate’s professional ethos and personal values mesh with your company’s culture.

Action points:

  • Review notes and impressions: Post-interview, review your notes and any scoring you may have done during the interview.

  • Consider team impact: Discuss with other team members or interviewers to gauge their impressions and how they think the candidate would integrate with the team.

  • Align with company needs: Match the candidate’s attributes with what your company values most to see if there is a true cultural fit.

Hiring for culture add versus culture fit

Hiring for "culture add" versus "culture fit" represents two distinct approaches in recruitment that can significantly influence the dynamics and evolution of a company's culture.

Hiring for culture fit:

This approach focuses on selecting candidates who align with the company's existing values and working style. The idea is to maintain harmony and stability within the team by ensuring that new hires are similar to current employees in terms of attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs. This can be beneficial for roles requiring high conformity and consistency.

However, a potential downside of emphasizing culture fit is that it may limit diversity within the team, as it can inadvertently favor candidates who share similar backgrounds or perspectives as the hiring manager or the team, potentially leading to groupthink and stifling innovation.

Hiring for culture add:

In contrast, hiring for culture add involves looking for candidates who not only align with the core values of the company but also bring unique qualities that may be absent or underrepresented in the current team.

This approach values diversity and the potential for new hires to contribute different perspectives and experiences, thereby enriching the existing company culture. The aim is to enhance the organization's cultural fabric, drive innovation, and adapt to changing environments by incorporating diverse viewpoints and skill sets.

12 common questions to ask in a culture interview


Crafting the right questions for a culture interview can provide deep insights into whether a candidate will be a good fit with your company's culture. These questions should help uncover how candidates align with the values and behaviors that are celebrated at your company.

Here are 12 essential questions that can help a hiring manager gauge whether a potential hire will contribute positively to the team and company culture:

1. How do you describe your ideal working environment?

This question reveals preferences in work atmosphere and team dynamics.

2. Can you give an example of how you have contributed to a team building exercise in the past?

Insights into the candidate’s ability to engage with and contribute to team activities.

3. What are the three most important values you think a co-worker should have?

Understanding what values they prioritize in others provides insight into their expectations and potential cultural fit.

4. Describe a situation where you had to adapt to a significant change at work. How did you handle it?

Assesses adaptability and problem-solving skills in a changing work environment.

5. What type of management style helps you thrive?

Reveals compatibility with the management styles within your company.

6. What motivates you to come to work every day?

Gives a glimpse into what drives them, whether it’s mission-driven, development-focused, or otherwise.

7. In what type of work environment do you least prefer working?

Understanding their least preferred environments can highlight potential clashes with your current culture.

8. How do you handle a stressful situation with a co-worker?

Looks at conflict resolution skills and emotional intelligence.

9. What does ‘work-life balance’ mean to you, and how do you achieve it?

Indicates their expectations and practices regarding balancing personal life and work.

10. Can you describe an instance where you felt you went above and beyond at work?

Demonstrates initiative and willingness to contribute more than what is expected.

11. What’s your viewpoint on diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Provides insight into their values and how they align with the company’s stance on diversity and inclusion.

12. If hired, what is the first thing you would like to add or change about our team or company culture?

This is a forward-thinking question that not only reveals their perception of your culture but also their potential as a culture add to your organization.

These questions are designed to help the hiring manager uncover the candidate's values, attitudes, and compatibility with the job positions and company's culture, ensuring a holistic understanding of each potential team member.

Challenges and considerations

Conducting culture interviews is a nuanced process that plays a crucial role in shaping the workplace environment. However, this approach comes with its own set of challenges that can impact the effectiveness of your hiring decisions.

One major challenge is the presence of biases during the interview. Interviewers might lean towards candidates who share similar personal interests or backgrounds, a tendency known as similarity bias.

This can skew the assessment of a candidate's true cultural fit and lead to a less diverse workplace. Another significant difficulty is measuring culture fit itself, as it is inherently subjective and can vary widely between different interviewers.

To overcome these challenges, consider implementing the following best practices:

  • Structured interview process: Standardize the questions asked and use a scoring system to evaluate answers. This helps reduce personal biases by focusing on specific criteria that reflect the company's values.

  • Diverse interview panels: Include interviewers from various backgrounds and departments within the company. A diverse panel can provide multiple perspectives and help mitigate individual biases.

  • Training for interviewers: Provide training on unconscious bias to all interviewers to make them aware of their own potential biases and how to manage them during the interview process.

  • Feedback mechanism: After the interview, gather feedback from both the candidate and the interviewers to continuously improve the process. This can help identify any recurring biases or issues in how culture fit is assessed.

  • Clear definition of culture fit: Clearly define what culture fit means within your organization. This should go beyond just getting along with the team and should align with the core values and objectives of the company.

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Culture interviews are an essential component of the recruitment process, allowing companies to assess how well candidates align with their organizational ethos.

By understanding and implementing the concepts of both culture fit and culture add, employers can enhance team dynamics, foster a diverse workplace, and ensure that new hires contribute positively to the company's objectives.

The effective use of culture interviews not only supports better hiring decisions but also promotes a more inclusive and dynamic company culture, crucial for long-term success.

Topic: Culture
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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