Technical interviews help recruiters streamline the hiring process by evaluating a candidate’s fit for technical roles. Fundamentally, a technical interview gives insight into the candidate’s technical suitability – this may include coding skills, problem-solving ability, familiarity with algorithms, and the likes. However, recruitment is about more than just finding competent talent.
Hiring managers also need to find candidates that integrate with their company and its culture. Otherwise, they might end up hiring a candidate with strong coding skills and fire them in two months for not being a team player.
To avoid unpleasant scenarios like this, it’s vital to assess a candidate’s cultural fit. In this article, we’re going to cover how you can kill two birds with one stone. How to assess a candidate’s cultural fit alongside their technical competency, all in the same interview.
What Is a Technical Interview?
A technical interview consists of specialized questions that evaluate a candidate’s technical abilities and suitability for a role. In addition, hiring managers may also test the applicant’s problem-solving and analytical skills during tech interviews.
Companies typically put up advertisements to attract interested candidates for tech positions and then conduct technical interviews to evaluate them. Recruiters may choose to conduct the interviews on varying platforms, depending on their resources and needs. The interviews may be in the form of virtual interviews, phone interviews, or on-site face-to-face interviews.
Tech interviews typically aim to evaluate the candidate’s methodology while problem-solving, rather than the correctness of the answers themselves. This is because their methodology indicates the candidate’s potential to tackle fresh, unknown tasks.
What is a cultural fit?
With tech interviews, it’s relatively easy to define the evaluation criteria. The benchmarks are tangible, and recruiters can reliably evaluate a candidate’s potential. However, when assessing a candidate’s cultural fit through the interview, the process becomes tricky. This is because the cultural fit is more of a concept than a tangible entity. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to quantify.
While it’s not easy to assess a candidate’s cultural fit, you’ll certainly notice the consequences if they don’t fit into the culture. The candidate may fail to integrate into the team, and conflicts may emerge later.
Cultural fit is indeed difficult to pinpoint, but it’s vital to evaluate a fit to some degree. Technical skills may not be the standalone indicator of a candidate’s potential. Loosely defined, a candidate’s cultural fit refers to how well they integrate with the team and how productive they are in their role.
Whether an applicant fits well with the company and has meaningful goals or not is just as important as their technical ability. In addition, cultural fit affects an employee and their relationship to the company and influences how they interact and work with other team members. For a team to work cohesively, all its members must have equitable input. Some members failing to work well with their peers may jeopardize an entire team’s overall performance.
However, just as various parts of a machine are designed differently, all team members are not the same. And recruiters should not repeatedly hire culturally identical candidates. It’s vital to keep diversity in mind when assessing for a cultural fit to have a fully functioning team with different views and working abilities.
Why is a cultural fit important?
In a professional setup, it’s easier to train employees on the skills they lack, but the same training for cultural fit rarely exists. This is sad but true that a candidate’s lack of cultural fit has potentially disastrous consequences. Thus, it’s better to get things right from the start in the hiring process itself. When it comes to recruits, cultural fit is just as crucial as a technical fit.
Happy employees lead to happy companies. However, the lack of a cultural fit for an employee can lead to less productivity, decreased job and work satisfaction for both the person and the company. It can also lead to a potentially aggressive working environment that can affect other employees too. Thus, the right hire can immensely improve the company’s working environment and overall productivity, irrespective of the company size.
What are the 5 most important things you should do to assess a candidate's cultural fit?
When it comes to assessing technical competency, recruiters prepare questions in advance to evaluate technical skills. Similarly, for cultural fit, you should have a set criterion in mind to evaluate. This may seem daunting because the cultural fit isn’t tangible and is thus more difficult to assess than technical skills. Difficult, yes, but not impossible.
To assess a cultural fit, a recruiter’s goal is to find candidates that share your company’s core values and can integrate with the company culture.
To judge a candidate’s cultural fit, here are five things to account for:
#1 Ask the right questions
Unfortunately, there isn’t a single, perfect, go-to questionnaire that can help every company assess candidates for their cultural fit. As much as we’d love to have that, your company’s assessment criterion depends largely on the nature of work you’re in. For example, a job related to coding would require coding interviews to assess the candidate’s coding skills and problem-solving ability in real life.
Depending on your company’s structure, recruiters may need to find candidates who work well with a team and efficiently handle tasks independently. Your company’s makeup largely defines the type of cultural fit to look for.
So, cultural fit is important, but how do recruiters actually test for it? Well, asking behavioural questions is one of the most effective ways to assess cultural fit.
The right behavioural questions help recruiters determine how well a candidate’s goals align with the company culture. Before conducting a formal interview, you can devise and test your questions through mock interviews to determine whether they elicit the right responses from the candidates. Ultimately, your interview’s structure should include technical interview questions that assess the applicant’s cultural fit with your company.
Another way to determine a candidate’s potential cultural fit is to ask them about previous work experiences and to share what they enjoyed or disliked about them. This gives insight into the work environment the candidate thrives in and what they don’t adjust with. Moreover, asking the candidate about their future goals and plans helps determine if their aspirations align with your company’s vision.
Assessing cultural fit is all about creating a clear picture – and the way to do that is by asking well-designed, thorough questions.
#2 Assess beyond the fundamentals
While a technical interview focuses on a candidate’s academic and practical experience, a cultural fitness test evaluates skills beyond the fundamentals. In real life, a person must know how to do their job and appropriately interact with colleagues, peers, bosses, subordinates, and clients.
Thus, in addition to their problem-solving skills, recruiters should vet candidates for their communication skills, body language, dress code, mannerisms, confidence, etc. Remember, you’re not just looking for experienced candidates with relevant skills, but confident candidates who can handle themselves well in an unknown situation.
A cultural fitness test measures all these qualities in an applicant and determines their work ethic and values. Because let’s be honest, no matter how brilliant a candidate might be at the technical stuff, if they are unwilling to hand in their work on time or be a team player, then they aren’t the right long-term investment.
#3 Screen candidates using a cultural fit assessment test
The right way to do things correctly from the start is by incorporating a cultural fit assessment test right in the tech job interview.
The best time to assess a candidate’s cultural fit is during the tech interview itself – so you can evaluate a candidate’s overall fit for the position simultaneously. Then, if a candidate lacks the right technical skills for the role or isn’t a good cultural fit (or, you know, if they’re ill-suited across the board), you can screen them out without wasting much time.
To test the candidates for a cultural fit, you must exactly know your company culture first. You can do so by looking at your company’s Competing Values Framework and then assess the candidates against your company’s benchmark. You can then move forward with the applicants that easily fit in with your company’s culture – there’s significantly less probability of cultural fitness failure in this case.
#4 Employ two-way communication
To be transparent with the candidate right from the start, be prepared to answer any questions they might have about your company culture, mission, vision, and core values. Just as you might be looking to hire the right cultural fit, the candidate might also be looking to join the right company culture.
One way to showcase your company values is through your company’s mission statement. If you don’t have one already, consider investing some time in it, as it’s beneficial in the long run. In addition, enthusiastic candidates may even inquire about your mission statement and what you have made public. This displays a candidate’s interest in your company beyond the role itself. The takeaway from this is that providing candidates with an opportunity to ask questions helps you evaluate them better.
#5 Put things to the test
Thanks to plenty of technological advancements, most companies have the opportunity to conduct remote pair programming interviews. This not only helps businesses cut back on costs but also provides opportunities for comprehensive screening processes.
In the preface to the virtual interview itself, recruiters can evaluate a candidate’s proficiency in handling complex technical tasks with the help of live coding tests. Live tests help evaluate various behavioural aspects of a candidate and their technical know-how, thus testing their potential to adjust to your working conditions.
For example, if your work environment is fast-paced, then a time-conscious tech skill test can help screen candidates and determine which ones will thrive under high-pressure conditions.
Ideally, all the different managers, like the engineering manager, the product manager, and the hiring manager, should be on the same page about the qualities they are looking for in the person. Because of the different requirements that each of these demands, it is possible that different managers will look for different things in a candidate. To make the most of the situation, live coding pair programming interviews can prove invaluable.
When preparing to conduct tech interviews, most recruiters focus on designing questions and evaluation criteria to assess a candidate’s technical skills. However, some recruiters dangerously overlook the need to assess cultural fitness, which may have drastic repercussions.
So when it comes to conducting a technical interview, be careful not to overlook the importance of cultural fit assessment. By asking the right questions and facilitating some interactions with candidates and your team, you can get a better idea of a cultural fitness of an applicant.
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