By Stacy Eads
December 7, 2021

20 questions to uncover the right culture fit

Here are 20 interview questions you should be asking your prospects in order to determine if they are the right cultural fit for your company.
Woman thinking of questions

As a business coach who helps companies typically scale at a rate of at least 20% year over year, my clients are always growing, so it seems like they’re always hiring. I’m often asked about the best interview questions that help employers see through the “interview mask” that all prospects put on to look their best in front of you. 

If you’ve ever been in leadership, you know we’ve all been fooled at some time or another by a person who quite simply “interviews well,” then performs poorly on the job or doesn’t fit the team dynamic.

Let’s explore the top 20 questions my clients like to ask that uncover whether a prospective employee will be a good fit for their work culture. I often preach that we can’t hire for skills on a resumé, yet fire for character and look around saying woe is me. We’ve got to flip the script as leaders and ensure we’re interviewing from the starting gate for character and alignment to our team’s core values.

Typically, most employers seek a candidate who can execute the position well, carry themselves with character among the team and clients, and hold themselves accountable for goals and metrics.

These 20 questions can help unveil more about a candidate than their skills-based resume. 

  1. The most important interview question to ask, according to former Ford CEO Mark Fields, is, “Tell me a situation where you faced a lot of adversity, and then how did you handle it? Not so much from a business standpoint, but how did you handle it from a personal standpoint?” COACH TIP: Listen for self-reflective phrases and honesty about what they learned when they failed. Red flags are finger pointing, drama, and lack of personal accountability.
  2. What single project or task would you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career to date? In that project, what was the hardest part to execute? What was the easiest? COACH TIP: You’re listening for how fast their brain can identify easy or hard and how well they remember the details of their story to ensure they aren’t bluffing. You are politely digging deeper to ensure they did some of the work, not just others on their team.
  3. What are your career goals? COACH TIP: If this is not an upper management position, you need to know if they will be satisfied with it because it aligns with their passion or if they hope it’s a steppingstone to other things.
  4. What are you exceptionally good at?
  5. What are you not great at naturally? How do you push yourself to grow, improve, and hold yourself accountable in the areas of your weaknesses? COACH TIP: Leaders are readers. Does their response show initiative to watch TEDx on YouTube, read any inspirational books, or attend skills training or online classes?
  6. Who were your last five bosses, and how would they rate your performance from 1-10? COACH TIP: Use TORC (Threat of Reference Check) in your reply. “Okay thanks for those gut ratings; now, I’d like to know if I called them five minutes after this interview, what number do you think they’d give me about your performance? Why?” They may reveal different ratings when they know you are calling just five minutes later, before they can prep their references.
  7. Could you tell me about a defining moment in your life (work, family or fun) that has made a difference in who you are today? COACH TIP: This will tell a great deal about the person. Do they have a growth mindset to join your team? Will they fit into the culture of always Kaizen for continuous improvements, or do they baulk at change and struggle with a fixed mentality that they like everything to be the same all the time?
  8. Can you tell me about the important lessons you feel that you have learned in your career so far?
  9. Could you tell me about your primary day-to-day responsibilities at your last job? Why did you take the job? How do you feel it worked out for you?
  10. Tell me about your mentor.
  11. Why are you interested in leaving your current employment?
  12. Tell me about your most stressing or disappointing professional situation. COACH TIP: Respond, “Thanks for sharing. How did you cope with that mentally and emotionally?”
  13. Can you tell me about someone with whom you had a difficult time working? How did you handle the situation? Did it ever get better? 
  14. Could you tell me about a very challenging customer service problem you faced recently? COACH TIP: Thanks for sharing. How did you handle it? Did it improve based on your actions and communications?
  15. How would your time management and self-discipline skills be described by your current teammates or boss? Why?
  16. Could you tell me about how your performance was measured in your current job? How often, over the last twelve months, did you meet or exceed your assigned goals?
  17. Please tell me about a time when you did not meet your goals. What steps did you take to get back on target?
  18. Tell me about a time that you re-structured your work, or an overall process, to optimize? What were the results, and what did you think about the result?
  19. Can you tell me about what you enjoyed most about your last job?
  20. What specifically motivates you at work? 

You won’t need all 20 of these, but a few gems should stand out as relevant for each role. Great interview questions are just one part of your hiring flywheel. If you missed last month’s column, be sure to look back at The Great Resignation to see how your company should be shifting in today’s job market to more quickly acquire talent and budget for retention of your current staff.

People Decisions are one of the four big chess moves corporations must get right to scale up with less growing pains, according to best-selling author Verne Harnish. I specialize in all 4 Decisions to Scale Up: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash. If you would like an experienced coach to facilitate your company retreat this year, please book a free consultation to discuss your 2022 strategic plan. There are just 30 days left in 2021. Is your business ready for the new year?

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About Stacy Eads

Edmond native & UCO Alumna, Stacy Eads, is an award-winning “Most Admired CEO” who scaled her company as a Woman in Tech before becoming an International Scaling Up Business Coach. She now empowers other CEOs from $2M to $200M to embrace their leadership potential through quarterly strategic planning. Her talent is in high demand to CEO Coach, Train Teams, and Speak at Events in both the U.S.A. and Canada.

Stacy Eads’ career affiliations include 50 Women Making a Difference award, Circle of Excellence award, Torch Ethics award, Most Admired CEO award, Edmond Chamber & UCO Mentor, Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma Board of Directors, TEDx OKC Speaker Coach, and Ambassador Chairwoman for the Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce.