Hiring for Culture Fit: Are You Asking the Right Question?

Hiring for Culture Fit

Several times a month we have conversations with new clients looking to add contract training consultants to their staff to fulfill a short term need. One of the questions we ask is about their company culture to help determine a fit not only with skills and experience but with the ability to work effectively within their organization. Some answer by explaining they have a barista in the lobby, games in the break room, and snooze booths in the halls. Others attempt to describe their company values but values are hard to measure. Although the insights are a valuable peek into their world it doesn’t help a lot when assessing whether an outsider could navigate the chaos within the company. We obviously were not asking the right question.


What is the question that should be asked to help assess culture fit?

We started asking this question a decade ago when we’d send what we thought was the perfect consultant only to hear back, “not a fit”. Upon questioning what “fit” meant, we learned from the client things like the person doesn’t like games or the client thinks the consultant will be bored with the work. What we learned from this vague feedback is we missed something along the way because the client couldn’t articulate exactly why the consultant was not a fit. The “aha” moment came one day when speaking with a new client who dutifully answered all our questions thoroughly. “Before I let you go” the client began “let me tell you about our company culture which I believe is important for you to understand to be able to send us the right fit”. She went on to explain that in her company all the high performers across the company, regardless of job position, had certain traits in common. “If you send us consultants with most or all of these traits and the skills I require I am sure we’ll have a match” she explained. Those words struck like lightning. We were not asking the question with enough specificity for the hiring manager to give us what we needed to properly help.

If you are a recruiter, do you ask the hiring manager:
“What traits do all high performers share across all positions in your company?”

If you are a hiring manager:
Do you assess candidates in part for the traits that are exhibited by your high performers?

Whether you are hiring internally for an employee or for an external consultant, finding talent that can work effectively in your company is as important as skills.

What questions do YOU ask to assess culture fit?


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Tips for Hiring Training Contractors

Tips for Hiring Training Contractors

As a hiring manager, you may be in need of project specific help requiring a skill set that is not currently available in your organization. You decide to hire a contract worker with the needed skills. You work with your preferred staffing agency that specializes in the role you require.  The agency will source, vet, and a background check qualified candidates for you to interview and select.

What should you do to ensure the best possible experience prior to and during the contractor interview and onboarding process?

Here are some tips to consider before the interview:

  • Budget: Budget is an important consideration. Determine a range for the fee you can offer. Contractors will have different skill sets and levels of expertise. You need to be clear on whether it is an hourly, day, or fixed-fee rate.
  • Hiring Schedule: If you are interviewing, be ready to offer work for immediate needs, not projects that are in the planning stage with a start date weeks or months away. Contractors with good skills are in demand and may not be able to wait for the project you have in mind. If the decision to hire is slow in coming, the contractor may be working on a project elsewhere and have to turn down your offer.
  • Work Location: Determine whether the contractor needs to be onsite at your office. If they need to be onsite, what frequency and duration are required? This can affect the pool of resources available for you. Allowing contractors to work remotely part of the time will expand your choices of contractors. Contractors can still be on site for meetings, SME sessions, reviews, etc. but will appreciate the flexibility.
  • Ongoing Communication: Determine your communication expectations for the duration of the project. Regularly scheduled project updates, whether individual or with the entire team, need to be defined. This is especially important for contractors working remotely.
  • Company Culture:    Whether you are hiring internally for an employee or for an external contractor, finding talent that can work effectively within the company culture is as important as skills. Ask yourself what traits do all the high performers in your company share? Look for those traits during the contractor interview.


During the contractor interview it is important to clarify the following:

  • Task: The contractor must understand the overall project and the scope of the deliverables required. Be specific about the deliverables and expectations, including schedules and deadlines. If you determine that a team of contractors is needed, clarify the roles set out for each within the team.
  • Time Commitment: The contractor needs to know the expected time commitment for the work: full time, a few hours a week, six weeks, three months. Clarify whether the time commitment might be flexible in the future.
  • Portfolio and References: The contractor must provide a portfolio of work samples displaying their range of skills. The samples should be work from a
    range of clients across various industries. References from previous clients, provided by the staffing agency, should provide evidence of the project worked and the outcome.
  • Organization Tools: The contractor must understand the tools used within the organization (for example, Outlook, Yammer, SharePoint, etc.) and be versed in the use of the tools required for the skills work (for example Storyline or Captivate for eLearning development).
  • Skills Assessment: If required by your organization, it may be necessary for the contractor to demonstrate an appropriate task based on the skills you require. An example might be a revision to the main menu of an eLearning course or to revise a short written topic to be more scenario driven.

Advance preparation to determine what is needed to successfully hire a contractor can benefit all parties involved in the process. The time you put into planning can help assure that both you and the contractor are clear on the scope and objectives, the project progresses smoothly, and is completed on time.

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Kick-start your search for the top talent with help from ISC Technology.


Hiring for Emotional Intelligence

Hiring for Emotional Intelligence

The questions asked when hiring professionals can make or break your organization. A great hire can help a company grow. A bad hire, well, that’s another story. The cost of a bad hire can vary widely and the U.S. Department of Labor estimates the average cost of a bad hire can equal 30% of the employee’s first-year potential earnings. Emotional intelligence plays a key role in hiring employees who are competent and achieve success in their roles.

An emotionally intelligent individual has a high regard for social and emotional skills, works well with others, is effective in business or social settings, and tends to accomplish organizational goals. Why not make a couple of simple changes to the interview to increase your chances of making a great hire?

There are multiple aspects to emotional intelligence but honing in on these five traits in the interview process will go a long way in identifying candidates with high emotional intelligence.

1. Self-Perception

This refers to how a person understands their own feelings, behaviors, and motivation. Self-perception or self-awareness opens the door to examining one’s own shortcomings and strengths. The person is tuned in to how others perceive them. There is a recognition of how their feelings affect their job performance and the job performance of others.

Example questions to ask:

  • Describe a time when you felt you were unfairly criticized and how you handled it.
  • Has there ever been a time where your job performance was affected by your mood? Please describe.

2. Empathy

Empathy is the person’s awareness of the feelings and emotions of others and being able to respond in an appropriate way. Empathetic people can step into another’s shoes to understand their feelings and perspectives. Why might you want empathetic people in your organization? They look for commonalities during differences and tend to be good listeners.

Example questions to ask:

  • Describe a time when you had to deliver difficult news.
  • Describe a time when understanding someone else’s perspective helped you understand them better.

3. Stress Tolerance

How one handles various levels of stress coming from various sources might indicate how composed and unflappable a person might be. To remain competitive business needs to change frequently which causes employees stress. People that do not fly off the handle, are positive, and are able to think and speak clearly in emotionally charged situations will provide calm in the storm of change.

Example questions to ask:

  • When do you feel most under pressure? Tell me the last time that happened and what you did?
  • Tell me about a time when you were proud of how you handled a stressful situation.

4. Flexibility

The ability to handle changing circumstances and expectations without disruption speaks to a person’s adaptability or flexibility. Why might you want flexible people in your organization? They tend to be open-minded to new ideas, anticipates changing needs, and adjusts to change.

Example questions to ask:

  • Tell me about a time you had to act when there was no formal policy or procedure to do so.
  • Describe a situation when you had to adjust to changes over which you had no control.

5. Self-Control

This is the ability to manage impulses and not say or do anything inappropriate when the urge is present. These people demonstrate the ability to think before acting, deals with ambiguity, and manages feelings constructively.

Example questions to ask:

  • Tell me about a time you had to ‘bite your tongue’ even though you really didn’t want to.
  • Describe a situation when you had to exercise a significant amount of self-control.


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ISC offers consultants experienced in training and consulting in Emotional Intelligence. Contact Karen Wales, kwales@nullisc-usa.com or 949.458.2157 for more information.

To increase the chances of making good hiring decisions take the time to revamp your interview questions. The examples in this article may or may not be the traits important to your organization. Select the emotional intelligence traits valued by your organization. For quick help with possible questions simply Google emotional intelligence interview questions.  Science-based information can be obtained from the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations (www.eiconsortium.org).