I recently ran across an article from a venture capital firm that urged readers not to hire for culture fit. Why not? Because, according to the author, hiring based on culture fit “can quickly become the filter that weeds out diversity in opinion and thought.”

But that’s not what culture fit is at all. Sure, a lot of companies can fall victim to hiring only like-minded employees who end up dragging the company down in a never-ending cycle of groupthink.

Smart companies carefully cultivate and deeply understand their culture, and they hire employees who enrich it, not mimic it. Different perspectives and ideas are sought after and welcome because that’s what a great culture demands.

How to hire for culture fit

The article later, though, gets on the right track by advising companies to hire for “Attitude, Aptitude, and Ability,” which is similar to The Predictive Index’s “Head, Heart, Briefcase” strategy, a practice we’ve adopted at Garman Partners.

This strategy advises using behavioral and cognitive assessments to understand a candidate’s “Head” and refined interview questions about their values, passions and beliefs to get to know their “Heart.” Their work experience and skills – their “Briefcase” – are what you’ll learn from their resume.

Getting to the “Heart” of the matter

Understanding the “Heart” of the candidate is learning what drives them and how they relate to themselves and others. What values do they live by? What gets them excited about a project? How do they motivate and work with those around them? Your chance to find these things out is during the interview, but you’ll miss the opportunity if you’re poorly prepared.

When you interview a potential new employee, keep in mind these best practices:

1) Choose the right people to be part of the process.

Get your team ready for the interview first by limiting the number of people involved. We’ve seen companies where more than 10 people are part of the interview process, and that’s just too many. Pick the people who would work the most closely with the candidate – both above and below them. Otherwise, you’ll lose focus.

2) Establish a system for evaluating the candidate.

If there are no guidelines for what you’re looking for in a candidate, the interview team might all walk away with impressions so varying they can’t be quantified or weighed fairly. Let your team know the skills, personality and attitude you’re looking for ahead of time and ask them to fill out a brief questionnaire immediately after their interview with the candidate while their thoughts are fresh.

3) Ask the right questions.

Forget about those tricky interview questions you think will help bring the right candidate to the surface. Google has abandoned many of their most infamous questions, and you should too. Questions designed to fluster a candidate set an uncomfortable, antagonistic tone for the interview and prevent you from actually getting to know more about the person you might be working with every day. Instead, ask conversational questions that reveal how they think and approach problems. Avoid questions that allow them to recite their resume or toss out industry buzzwords. You know all that from their resume.

You can also work with an engaged search firm like Garman Partners to help you through this process. In engaged search, we partner with you to truly understand your culture and find you the best candidate to complement it. We can also offer you interview coaching, so you’ll get the most out of the time you spend with a candidate.

Look within before you begin

However, no interview process is complete without data to complement your own impressions. We’re all bound to be flawed to some degree in this process because we all have different backgrounds and experiences that help us form our opinions about candidates.

Data from behavioral assessments will reveal more about a candidate’s day-to-day attitude and behavior than you can gather in the stilted setting of an interview. Of course, to maximize the strength of your interview process, you will have ideally already analyzed your existing team with assessments as well to ensure you’re adding someone to the mix who will complement them – not destroy your dynamics or simply blend into the background.

Get Help From Experts

When it comes to hiring for culture fit, it can get complicated if you try to go it alone. My team and I have been certified by The Predictive Index as Talent Optimization Leaders, meaning we understand the complexities of culture and talent and can help you navigate. If you’re struggling with your existing team or need to add a key player, we’re here to help.