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Chris LoCurto


September 19, 2011

Leadership Question: Interviews And Core Values

September 19, 2011 | By | 25 Comments">25 Comments

I believe it all starts with you defining your core values. If you don’t know what those are to begin with, you have no clue what you’re looking for in the interview. Without them, only talent really matters. If you want someone who doesn’t gossip, or someone who has integrity, then you have a place to start. I asked our HR Director Rick Perry to jump in and give a little insight on this question:

I try to determine if a person is a match by explaining specific examples of our culture and the “why” (core value) behind doing it that way. Simple process:

  • Explain specifically how our culture works and the core value behind the “how.” For example, if the person is applying for a sales position, we will expect you to leave the cave, kill something and drag it home; that takes focused intensity over time and that translates into making a lot of phone calls every day.
  • Using this example allows the person to respond to that type of cultural mindset; if they don’t take me somewhere that convinces me they have focus, intensity, never-give-up attitude, etc. in their DNA, then I don’t see a match for this specific core value.

I try to cover everything from passion, work ethics, integrity, character, etc. using this process.

Always remember that you can ask as many questions as you would like, it’s your interview. Have a list of what your core values in front of you and throw out situations that would require each value. See how they respond. The process will become easier the more you do it.

Question: How do you discover if someone is a fit for your company?

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  • Louise Thaxton

    Chris – I try to “listen” in the interview process – allowing them to talk and share – and discover what is important to them. I’m not the best at this, unfortunately. I share our core values, our processes, our commitment to excellence – doing my best to not only “define” it – but to give examples of how it plays out in the workplace.

    Unfortunately, I have still made some “wrong hires” – and after a few weeks, we knew they just did NOT fit our culture ……It is something I am continuously working on…..

    • Chris LoCurto

      You always will. The good thing is, you get better at it each time.

  • misty

    For me, when I started doing more than one or two interviews with the same individual, it helped me to get a feel for their core values. I do believe that people are taught to say cliche responses and so it makes it hard to know whether they have the core values needed to work for your company. That is one reason the 90day probation is good because it helps you put that into working shoe leather and test it. It might work and it might not. They may talk the talk but not walk the walk. You can’t force someone to have your core values but I believe they can grow in them if they desire to.

    • Chris LoCurto

      So true!

  • Uma Maheswaran S (@mahez007)

    I believe it is important to ensure that the potential hire is a person who will be a cutural fit to the organization. Else, it will be atruggle from day one for both employer and employee. Successful organizations beging their process by bring on board the right people. It is always better to do it right the first time (when it comes to hiring).

    • Chris LoCurto

      So true Uma

  • Eric Speir

    I think it is critical to hire according to core values. If we do not know what is important to us then we will inevitably hire the wrong person for the wrong seat. We end up being frustrated because we expect them to act a certain way or respond to how we want them to but it may not be their leadership culture or in their leadership DNA. It’s better to hire the right person the first time then have to fire someone!

    • Chris LoCurto


  • ginasmom

    In answer to your question easy:), if something doesn’t feel right, deep down in my tummy (I guess my intuition), i have learnt it’s not worth pursuing the process, it’s time to move on to the next candidate. I don’t hire employees at work, but as the co-CEO of our residence, i’m in charge of some of this at home (baby sitters, nannies etc), and this keeps coming through, time and again.

    Once they pass my “instincts” test, i’ll proceed with our core values (It’s forced us to define who we are, who we are about as a family etc). To your point the best candidates have turned out to the ones who share our values in life.

  • Jonathan

    When lining up potential team members with the culture of an organization, it creates the opportunity to see what brought them to apply. Do they have a shared sense of purpose with the company they are looking to work for, or are they looking for just a j.o.b.? I find that cultural “fits” usually leads to finding shared purpose “fits”. This in turn will add a team member that will not only bring unity to your team, but also work to protect it as well.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Amen brother!

  • Colette Marx (@ColetteMarx)

    Chris! I love that you bring up core values. I have worked some jobs where the bottom line was all that mattered and you were dispensable. Sometimes it was hard working with the types of personalities that were hired because core values weren’t an issue when they were hired. A few of us would come in early, stay late and do anything to have things running smoothly, while others took late lunches, called in at the slightest whim and really didn’t pull their load. I can’t tell you the number of times I went home frustrated. It really hurt the moral of all the associates.

    I am now working in a job that core values are a must! It’s amazing to feel the difference between the two jobs. I am 100% invested and will do whatever it takes for us to be successful. I work closely with 2 other women and it is such a pleasure to work! I never thought I could enjoy working! We have looked at possibly hiring more to our little team, and our boss wants us to be super careful with whom we hire so it doesn’t mess up the chemistry and thus the success that we are having.

    P.S. Thanks so much for the book Fearless! I just got it and can’t wait to dig into it!

    • Chris LoCurto

      It can totally upset the team. Make sure you hire someone who’s a team player, not a great individual.

      And you are so welcome for the book. Thank you for your comments!

  • Andrea

    This is a great strategy, particularly for a company who operates just a little differently than most (which mine does).

    Half of the interview process for me is just listening and obvserving. It’s incredible to me what you can learn by what is said and not said. Red flags for me: complaining about current/most recent job/boss/company; and candidate not asking a lot of questions about company culture (very different than asking about the job). To me, an interview is a two-way street – the candidate should be interviewing the company just as much as the company is interviewing the person. If a candidate has little to no questions about the company, it communicates to me that they are only looking to get a job… not to find a long-term place to grow.

    • Chris LoCurto

      I absolutely agree!! Thanks Andrea!

    • Chris Johnston

      I like what you wrote.

      If I were a candidate, I not only want to bring my skills to the table, I would want to know the culture and values of the organization. I am looking to begin a relationship with this company. We must have mutual alignment of culture and values to make that relationship work.

      On some of our last interviews, we asked a lot of good questions, but we forgot to communicate our culture and learn more about their values. While we’ve brought aboard good people, we missed getting great by not understanding who these people truly were.

      • Chris LoCurto

        Unfortunately that happens. But it sounds like you’re on the right track now. Thanks Chris.

  • specializingintheimpossible

    Other than my boss’s kids………I have interviewed and hired one part-timer. And this person turned out to be a perfect fit!! woot woot :)
    Reading your post and the following comments encourages me that I can keep my “record” going… :)

    • Chris LoCurto


  • the retrospective entrepreneur

    Can’t argue with 4%, Chris!

  • Tom Brichacek (@tbric)

    I can honestly say, this is one area where we are lacking severely. Our interviewing skills are: Where did you work last, & how long? Can you do x,y,z? Good, you’re hired! We never seem to be proactive in the interview process to start it before we are in dire need. Thanks for the pointers Chris.

    • Chris LoCurto

      You’re not alone Tom. Most companies that I meet do the same thing because nobody taught them.

  • the retrospective entrepreneur

    Chris, this is a really interesting issue you raise here and one where experience has taught me to take the opposite approach. Firstly, why I disagree – people everywhere are becoming more adept at telling us what we wish to know. By describing the company culture in great detail before asking them allows the interviewee to describe behaviour that fits your culture. Yes, you can explore their views in great depth and may uncover that they are wearing a mask that doesn’t really fit them but it’s time consuming. Too many candidates (especially in today’s tight job market) will try to bend their experience, beliefs and behavioural style to what you are looking for in the mistaken belief that once they get the position, then all will be well; it rarely is if they are not a true fit.
    My preferred approach is to describe realistic scenarios that are culture neutral and then ask the interviewee to describe their preferred behaviour faced with that scenario. I have found that this approach is far quicker in allowing identification of suitable candidates. Having found a candidate that you feel will fit your culture, then you can proceed to a description of your culture.
    Best regards

    • Chris LoCurto

      Great point Tony. What we have found is, this process as a part of our overall lengthy hiring process has taken our turnover rate to 4%.