When you’re looking to hire a new employee for your small business, how do you start? Probably by writing a stellar job description, complete with ideal experience and skills, and then posting it to relevant job boards. Maybe you even engage a recruiter. When telling the recruiter the type of professional you’re looking for, you stress the hard skills you’ll need. And, thankfully, when it comes to screening resumes, you have an eagle eye for industry experience.

This sounds like a great hiring plan, and yet if you want to hire an employee who will work effectively in your business for the long-term, your current plan is missing two key factors: cultural fit and soft skills. Too often business owners only look for the right hard skills — those quantifiable and teachable skills, like proficiency in a foreign language or programming skills — and for relevant work experience.

You may forget to be on the lookout for so-called soft skills, like critical thinking, communication, and teamwork — traits that kick-start innovation — and for cultural fit, which helps ensure your employee not only will fit in from a personality standpoint — maintaining office harmony — but also will be happy and satisfied working in your business.

Employees who are a good cultural fit are more likely to stay with your business long-term and be more productive. To help keep your attrition costs down and enjoy higher performance from your team, seek to add team members who align with your organization.

Do This Before Recruiting Your Next Hire

Before you can focus on hiring people who will thrive in your office culture, you must first understand your culture.

Consider your small business’s core values, your goals, and regular practices. Explore whether there is a prevailing work style. Slow and steady wins the race, or work hard / play hard? Maybe somewhere in between. Also evaluate the traits of your best employees and how these attributes help them thrive at work.

Once you have a good idea of what your culture is, seek out your best people and ask them what they think. Host lunchtime focus groups, send out surveys, or even hire an outside consultant. Do your homework now so you can hire more of the right people and enjoy a happy, harmonious, and productive work environment.

15 Interview Questions to Assess Cultural Fit

Research has shown that employees who fit the organizational culture enjoy higher job satisfaction, show greater commitment, believe in your mission, and even perform at higher levels. What business owner wouldn’t want that? Try asking open-ended questions like these in your next interview:

  1. What are some great relationships you’ve had with people in your past roles, and what kinds of relationships do you hope to have at work?
  2. Can you describe your most productive work style?
  3. What impact do you intend to make on our clients and your co-workers?
  4. How have you personally grown over the course of your career, and what type of growth are you looking for in your next job?
  5. What do you like to do for fun?
  6. How do you prefer to balance your personal interests with your professional life and goals?
  7. What motivates you?
  8. When have you been at your happiest in past jobs, and what did you like best about the company and/or your role?
  9. Have there been times when you were unhappy at another organization? Why was that?
  10. What type of culture do you thrive in?
  11. Do you have any personal values that you bring to your work?
  12. What about our business and this role excites you?
  13. Based on what you’ve seen so far, how would you describe our culture, and do you think you’d enjoy working in it?
  14. Why do you think you will do well here?
  15. Describe how your strengths and goals will contribute to your success in our business.

8 Interview Questions to Identify Soft Skills

Along with finding a candidate who would enjoy and thrive in your culture, you also want to find someone with the right soft skills for the specific role they’d fill.

Keeping your cultural attributes in mind, determine what the job requires: adaptability, collaboration, versatility, humility? Once you have the requisite soft skills in mind, ask situational questions to determine if candidates have those skills:

  1. Can you share a time when you’ve had to [adapt to a new plan / work with a diverse team / etc.]?
  2. How would your friends describe you?
  3. What is your typical role in social groups?
  4. If you were [asked to lead a new project / told to claim a weekly day for break room dishwasher duty / etc.], how would you feel?
  5. What would your next step be if you were part of a failing project?
  6. Is there anything you’d like to learn, and how would you go about learning it?
  7. When you feel overwhelmed at work, what’s your next step?
  8. Tell me about a time you failed at something. How did you handle it?

Your Final Step to Hiring the Right Person

Are you sold on one or two final candidates? Hopefully they check the hard skills, soft skills, and cultural fit boxes. You’ve come a long way, but before you push that offer letter across the table, do this one last thing:

Get feedback from your current employees. Ask them to give the candidate a tour of the office or to take the person out for a coffee to answer questions. You may find that candidates behave differently when interacting with a possible future colleague than with you, the hiring manager.

And there’s a bonus: This will likely further sell the candidate on your small business. After all, when you put this much effort into finding the right person, you want them to accept your offer, once it’s made.

Tell Us: What do you always ask candidates in interviews?

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