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.

Find the Right Talent for Your Team
Kick-start your search for the top talent with help from ISC Technology.