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PBM 101: How to effectively hire for the right “culture fit”

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PBM 101: How to effectively hire for the right “culture fit”

In this Principle Based Management 101 series, we’re unpacking mental models, ideas, and tools you can use to level up your work.

This article was previously published by Stand Together Foundation.


Principle Based Management™ provides a holistic approach to making decisions, solving problems, and creating value for individuals in your community, team members in your organization, and society at large. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​It is rooted in proven principles that have fueled the ongoing success of Stand Together and our partners. In this Principle Based Management 101 series, we’re unpacking mental models, ideas, and tools that you can use to reach the next level in your work.

Advancing your vision means you need to build the right team of individuals who bring unique skills, knowledge, perspectives, and experiences. But the impact of even the most talented individuals is nullified if the culture of your organization is unhealthy. For this reason, the values of those we hire and the overall culture we foster are even more important than raw talent.

In Principle Based Management™ (formerly Market-Based Management®), we seek to codify shared values that create expectations that apply to everyone—what we call our Guiding Principles. They guide employees to behave and make principled decisions that best advance your vision.

Building the right team and bringing your culture to life require a commitment to integrate your shared values into all employment decisions and interactions. Hiring, in particular, presents a significant opportunity to intentionally maintain and build your culture.

How do you hire in a way that is consistent with the culture you are trying to foster? Determining a “culture fit” for a candidate can feel like a tricky thing to pin down, and it can be influenced by personal preferences. Plus, someone’s alignment with your culture is hard to measure when you’ve never worked with them before. So where should you start?

Try implementing the following three methods to more effectively screen for cultural alignment when kicking off your next interview process.

Codify your culture

Are your values and beliefs defined and shared? If your values and beliefs are not written down, it will be difficult to build a shared perspective and deep understanding across teams. Without that shared understanding, it will be challenging to make hiring decisions rooted in your culture.

Create focus areas

If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re never going to find it. Start by defining a few focus areas, based on specific behaviors connected to your values and beliefs (your defined culture). How should prospective candidates act if they are operating according to those principles? For example, what is the best evidence of someone practicing humility or integrity? Once you’ve defined a list of focus areas that represent alignment with your culture, you’ll be more equipped to look for them throughout the interview process.

Ensuring a candidate has the necessary skills for the role is also an important focus area. We hire based on values first while also ensuring employees have (or can develop) the necessary knowledge and skills to meaningfully contribute.

Practice behavior-based interviewing

We believe a good predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Equipped with clear focus areas in your interview process, you can look for evidence of current and past behavior by asking and preparing thoughtful questions. A technique we use in interviewing at Stand Together Foundation is called SBO, which stands for Situation, Behavior, and Outcome.

  • Situation: This is the context in which the behavior or action took place. Who was involved? Where and when did it take place?
  • Behavior: This is the person’s actions. What did the person do or say? How did he/she handle the situation?
  • Outcome: This is the result of the person’s actions. What happened because of the person’s actions? What were the implications (both good and bad)?

For more guidance on hiring and retaining the right team members, explore our previous article on the Virtue and Talents Dimension of Principle Based Management.

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