Whether it has been consciously designed or not every business has its own unique culture and you can always tell what that culture is by simply spending some time inside the business.

Regardless of any values you’ll find written on the walls or championed on the website, the truth will out.

Culture is an atmosphere. Culture is a feeling. It cannot be hidden, and it cannot be cheated.

Even the most inspirational cultures find themselves under constant threat. Threats from targets not being met, threats from competitors, threats from growth. Yes, growth is a serious threat to any culture, for it often leads to new people entering the workplace.

With new people, come new dynamics and consequently new challenges.

So how do we navigate the risks involved with bringing new people into your business?

Whilst CVs have proven themselves to be ideal for understanding a candidate’s experience and skills, embellishments aside, they offer little insight in terms of what really makes a person tick.

That’s why we have interview processes, as ultimately we are looking to answer one simple question with any new hire: can we trust them?

Trust them to deliver, to fit in, to add value, to take the business forward.

Most people wouldn’t get married to someone after the first date, so how do we establish enough trust to make a decision to hire?

Today, most businesses try to adopt a ‘hire slowly, fire fast’ approach to recruitment, getting to know candidates better before making a decision, yet so much of our hiring processes are built to establish reliability, not trust.

And even the ‘fire fast’ aspect can create some accountability problems for a business. Imagine for a moment that you were unable to fire at all. What would your recruitment process look like as a result?

It may sound crazy but Next Jump has adopted such an approach. A job for life. Their attitude to hiring can be found on their culture page which simply states: “We don’t hire employees; we adopt family members. We don’t fire… we coach.”

Whilst this approach may not suit everyone, there is much to learn from their approach to hiring and talent development and it all starts with values.

Just as culture eats strategy for breakfast, values trump performance. Values are the currency of trust.

So, why values? Taking the literal meaning, values are “principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life”. Sounds pretty simple, right? So all we need to do is ask people what their values are and we will know if they are a fit for our business or not… not quite.

Values only manifest themselves in our behaviours, which in turn determine the actions we take and the results we achieve.

This is true not just in business, but in life.

What do values come from?

So, how are values formed? Our experiences in life inform our beliefs, which in turn shape our values.  Once established our values rarely change and provide us with an operating framework, guiding all of what we do. It is for this reason values are critical to the success or failure of any new hire.

Just as culture eats strategy for breakfast, values trump performance. Values are the currency of trust.

So how do you hire to values? The law of attraction will play a big part in this process, so try not to make your company, or a role within it, appealing to everyone or chances are you will fail to attract the people you really want.

Start with a wish list, but along with skills and experience spend equal time thinking about ideal personality type and behaviours.

What characteristics are you not willing to compromise on?

Consider every point of engagement as a potential filter to eliminate those who do not match your wish list.

Once you know the type of person you want you’ll need to create a job description, but don’t limit that description to tasks. Take the opportunity to convey the experience of working in your business. What does an average day in your company really feel like?

Every touchpoint with a candidate is an opportunity to demonstrate your culture and express what makes your business unique. Think about how you want your dream candidate to feel when they read the job description – you never get a second chance at a first impression.

Equally, consider every point of engagement as a potential filter to eliminate those who do not match your wish list. Don’t be afraid of putting people off. The more unsuitable candidates you can eliminate at this stage; the more time you can spend getting to know those who do possess the qualities you are looking for.

Crafting interview questions

Next, you’ll need to think about your interview process and technique. I would suggest always setting some form of challenge to respond to. This can be something relatively simple that’s designed to test a candidate’s attention to detail or you can ask them to prepare a short presentation to gain the first-hand experience of their approach to problem-solving.

The way we approach one problem is typically representative of how we approach all problems, so this exercise can be very insightful. You should also look to include focused, open-ended interview questions to encourage storytelling, whilst mixing things up with the occasional high leverage question to gain insight into how they see themselves.

Storytelling questions such as ‘tell me about a time you did x or y’ can be related directly to your company values and will encourage candidates to draw from real-life experiences. High leverage questions are designed to provide maximum insight with minimum effort and again can be linked to your values.

Storytelling questions can be related directly to your company values and will encourage candidates to draw from real-life experiences.

A great example of a high leverage question comes from The Luck Factor by Dr Richard Wiseman, which argues that people who see themselves as lucky are generally happier and easier to work with than those who don’t. The question, in this case, would be: ‘how lucky are you on a scale of naught to 10?’

You should also include questions designed to see beyond a candidate’s response to the role on offer. Asking them about what their ideal job would be can expose hidden skills and talents which your company may later benefit from.

Finally, think about how you accept a successful candidate into your business. Acceptance is another opportunity to make a lasting impression, so make it memorable.

Also, be sure to say no to those candidates who are unsuccessful.

Not only will they value hearing from you, but your brand reputation will get a boost from treating every candidate like a human being.

Of course, the process doesn’t stop at saying ‘yes’ – in reality, that is just the beginning. Your induction process needs just as much thought and attention as your selection process.


Emma is a blogger and entrepreneur, she likes writing about growth and business tips.