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11 Crucial Interview Questions to Ensure a Culture Fit Someone cheerfully willing to learn is always a better bet than a know-it-all who will never learn to listen

By John Rampton Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Let's be honest. Culture fit is one of the most important components of your business. Having great employees is a big part of my company's culture, and maintaining that culture is key to keeping my business solid. That means that during the interview process you have to ask the right questions that ensure whether or not the applicant fits your culture.

Over the years I've hired hundreds of people. I've seen it all. I've hired it all. One thing I've learned over the years is it's really not as much about the position they are filling as it is about the team they will be working with. I'd rather have a B qualifications and an A+ team member over an A+ qualified and a C team member. Having the wrong culture fit can destroy the good people you have working for you.

That may sound challenging, but if you use the following questions, you'll be on your way in ensuring a culture fit.

1. "What was your first job? Was there anything that you learned from the experience?"

Not to come across as cold, but I honestly don't care what your first job was. I'm really looking to see what you learned from the experience, if that is still applicable today, and if that gels with our culture fit. More importantly, I want to see some creative, motivation, and innovative thinking as well.

In most cases you'll come across stories about babysitting, mowing lawns, paper routes, or dog walking and how they instilled reliability and a strong work ethic. But, if the applicant sold handmade bracelets on Etsy or started a lemonade stand that gave back to the community?

Those are the driven, passionate, and creative people I want on my team.

Related: 7 Interview Questions That Determine Emotional Intelligence

2. "What stops would you make if you were going to give public tours of this company?"

What's great about this question is that it forces the interviewee to think about what they perceive as the best components of your business. For example, if you were to give a tour of Zappos, you would definitely make it a point to highlight the company's help center because customer service is one of the most important components of Zappos.

3. "How have you delegated tasks in the past?"

Instead of just hiring entry-level employees, I'm on the lookout for future leaders. By asking them how they have delegated tasks gives me a better idea on their leadership skills and techniques.

4. "Why do you want to work at this company? What expectations do you have?"

This question gets right into finding out if the applicant is the right fit for you company. For example, do they want to join your startup and help it grow? Do they like the challenge of working with limited resources? Do they want to be a part of a collaborative environment? Do they like how you give back to the community? or are they just wanting a paycheck each month?

All of these examples can guide you into finding out whether the interviewee's values align with yours or not.

5. "Was there ever a time when you didn't know how to do something? How did you overcome it?"

When you're launching a startup it's expected that employees wear multiple hats and help others with the workload. So, if they responded that their previous employer needed help with writing blog content - even if you never done so,- but you still lended a hand, it shows that they're not afraid to take risks, can think on their feet, and willing to whatever it takes to benefit the entire organization.

That says a lot about that person. And that's someone I want on board.

Related: 8 Revealing Interview Questions to Hire Standout Staff

6. "Who is your biggest inspiration and why?"

You can learn a lot from people's role models since it can clue you in on their behavior patterns, work ethics, and values. In fact, according to Pennsylvania State University-Erie researchers Michael Brown and Linda Treviño, ethical leaders - meaning those who are "seen as a moral person who is honest, trustworthy, caring about people, open to input, respectful, and able to make principled decisions" - aren't only liked by employees, they likely learned these lessons from an ethical role model.

7. "If you could start your own business, what would it be and why?"

Asking this question gives me an idea on how strong the entrepreneur spirit is in the candidate. Why's that important? Because having an intrapreneur on my team tells me that this individual has a vision, is productive, innovative, creative, are up-to-date with trends, and can be the driving force into my organization's success. This will also help you weed out fakepreneurs pretty quick!

8. "What's your superpower...or spirit animal?"

Whether you know it or not, we all have some sort of super power or connection to an animal. Sharing this information assists me in determining how you'll overcome obstacles and what type of employee you'll be.

Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite said;

"During her interview I asked my current executive assistant what was her favorite animal. She told me it was a duck, because ducks are calm on the surface and hustling like crazy getting things done under the surface.

I think this was an amazing response and a perfect description for the role of an EA. For the record, she's been working with us for over a year now and is amazing at her job."

9. Can you elaborate on your hobbies?

A candidate's hobbies let me know what they're passionate about and how that can fit with the culture of my company. For example, I could hire the greatest programmer in the world, but if they're only interested in writing code for mobile apps because they're avid fan of "Angry Birds,' then they might not work well with a company that writes code for a sports blog.

When I started my payments company, I thought all programmers were created equal. I just found an amazing programmer. Several months into our engagement I realized that no work was being done. It's because it's not something he wanted to work on and we didn't share the same vision. It didn't work out.

Related: The 5 Must-Ask Interview Questions to Determine if Someone's a Fit

10. "How do you fail?"

I'm not looking to embarrass the applicant. And, I don't want to open-up any old wounds. I do, however, want to know how they handled failure and what they learned from the experience. Remember, we're all going to stumble at some point. It just matters how you rebound and get back up.

11. "What do you love best about the culture here?"

This is a great final question since it lets you know why they will keep coming back to work each and everyday and deliver 100 percent -- here's a clue, it's not the paycheck. If they answer sounds too superficial, then this candidate might not be a solid fit in your culture.

John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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