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It’s time to stop asking culture fit questions — think culture add

May 25, 2022 - 13 min read

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Hiring for cultural add versus cultural fit 

17 culture add interview questions (rethink your approach to culture fit) 

3 tips to keep in mind when asking culture add questions

Start adding top talent to your team 

Stumped by what to ask in an interview? 

We know the feeling. It’s difficult to figure out what to ask — and what questions are going to be valuable. 

But beyond questions that will help determine whether or not a candidate is a fit for the role, it’s important to think about company culture

According to a 2021 PwC survey, 66% of C-suite executives think culture is more important than organizational performance. In fact, 72% of leadership respondents report that their culture helps make change initiatives happen. 

But we know that interviewing for cultural fit is outdated. So, how do you find the right questions to ask in an interview when it comes to culture? 

We’ll talk about the key differences between hiring for cultural add vs. cultural fit. You’ll also get a full list of culture add questions (not culture fit questions). 

It’s time to toss culture fit questions out the window. Let’s get started.

Hiring for cultural add versus cultural fit 

First, let’s understand the difference between hiring for cultural fit versus cultural add. 

  • Cultural fit: We define a cultural fit as sharing the same behaviors, values, interests, and work preferences. But the key part of this phrase is the term “fit.” To fit into a culture means the person must have some sort of homophily. In short, culture fit is about looking for someone based on their similarities to the group.
  • Cultural add: A culture add is someone who brings diverse experiences, perspectives, and ideas to the workplace. This perspective embodies the idea that a cultural add enhances and adds to the current company culture. A culture add shares certain core behaviors and values that are important to the group but shows and interprets them in new and divergent ways. A cultural add empowers growth for the team and individuals. 

Research tells us that cultural fit can actually be detrimental to your organization’s success. Hiring for culture fit can be extremely detrimental to your belonging, equity, inclusion, and diversity efforts

If you hire for culture fit, it could mean you’re encouraging bias (especially unconscious bias). Similarly-minded and homogenous groups can encourage groupthink, which can spiral into toxicity or even hostility in the workplace

But hiring for cultural add encourages diversity, which is better for your employees and your business. Diverse teams and teams with diverse perspectives and approaches have more energy and potential for productive friction. They work smarter and are better equipped to solve complex problems. Diverse teams are more creative and innovative — and show better work performance. 

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17 culture add interview questions (rethink your approach to culture fit) 

It’s time to rethink your approach to culture fit. Instead of asking cultural fit interview questions, consider how you can hire for cultural add. Keep these 17 culture add questions in mind for your next interview. 

I thought I’d share an anecdote about my own interview experience with BetterUp. I remember making it to the final round of executive interviews.

I was extremely nervous to be interviewing with some of our BetterUp executives and wasn’t sure what value I would bring to them. After all, I was interviewing for a staff writer role. My role was rungs below them on the corporate ladder, and I had nowhere near their level of experience. 

But at the end of my second executive interview, our head of strategy said something to me that I’ll never forget. “Thank you for teaching me some things today, Madeline.” 

I was shocked. Never in a million years did I think I would be able to contribute any sort of learning to an executive with a wealth of know-how and expertise. But that’s also when I learned something unique about our interview process. Both parties should walk away with an “add” to their day. 

Work with your talent acquisition team. Make sure your interviewers are asking cultural add questions during the hiring process.

Make sure your interviewers understand the difference between hiring for cultural add versus cultural fit. And challenge your people to exercise their growth mindset. With the right perspective, every type of interview (even an informational interview) should result in some sort of learning. 

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3 tips to keep in mind when asking culture add questions

When it comes to hiring for culture add, there are some things to keep in mind. Here are three tips to keep in your back pocket as you assess for cultural additions

1. Be aware of your biases 

We all have unconscious biases. They're buried perspectives or ways of thinking that often go unaddressed unless we seek them out. 

But here’s the important part: uncover them. Be aware of any implicit biases you may have, especially if you’re heading into an interview. It’s important to be honest and vulnerable with yourself on where you may have “blind spots” and acknowledge them. And, no matter what you do, keep your microaggressions in check. 

2. Seek feedback from the team 

It’s not often that a single person interviews a candidate. Many organizations have adopted an interview model that includes multiple team members. 

First, make sure you provide a platform for feedback. It’s important for your employees participating in the interview process have a place to voice their feedback. 

Second, listen to your employees. There’s nothing more invalidating than ignoring feedback. And, your employees will know if you’re taking their feedback seriously.  Make sure you’re attentively listening to their perspective. Even if you disagree, which is OK, you need to create the space for constructive disagreement

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3. Pause and reflect on what you’ve learned 

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the busy-ness of your day-to-day. Sometimes, you’re jumping from one meeting to the next. You may dive back into your projects and plug away at meeting deadlines. And, before you know it, you’re having trouble distinguishing between interviews and candidates. 

Try to block 5-10 minutes on your calendar after you conclude a culture add interview. Take a few minutes to pause and reflect.

What did you learn from the candidate? In what ways could this candidate challenge you or your team? How do you see this candidate adding to your company’s culture? What does this candidate bring to the table that’s currently missing in your organization? 

Taking some time for reflection is important. Don’t skip this step, no matter how tempting it may be to dig right back into work. 

Start adding top talent to your team 

There are a lot of ways to evaluate whether a candidate is a good match for the role. But evaluating a good cultural fit starts with challenging outdated perspectives. After all, workplace culture is a living, breathing organism. As our world changes and shifts, so should work culture. When hiring people, it’s important to evaluate the type of person based on what they will add. 

Your organization’s culture is critical to your success. That’s a non-negotiable. And so when it comes to new employees or new hires, it’s important to invest in the resources needed to find the right folks. 

Work with your hiring managers on what it means to be a part of a team at your company. Challenge outdated perspectives. Ask them to consider ways the work environment would benefit from cultural adds.

The job interview is an important part of the hiring process and the employee experience. And with the right set of questions, you can make sure you’re setting up your people for success. 

Consider ways BetterUp can help unlock the potential in your workforce. With personalized support, a coach can help empower team building, motivation, productivity, and more. 

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Published May 25, 2022

Madeline Miles

Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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