good interview questions

Fix your corporate culture with 12 top interview questions from HR pros

Bethany RamosAbout Cornerstone, Industry Professionals, Loan Officers

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Sept. 11, 2018.

The U.S. economy’s recovering, and the unemployment rate recently hit an 18-year low. Many prospective hires now reserve the right to be picky. Hiring incredible talent can revive a struggling corporate culture and may increase performance. It can also make your company more attractive to new hires. Here are the most revealing questions to ask in a job interview to find the needle in the haystack and make it happen.

How to hire for corporate culture in 12 questions or less

Seeking out team members with the talents to get the job done and the traits to support your company’s core values isn’t easy. But putting effort into giving a tired corporate culture a turnaround (or maintaining the workplace culture you’ve created) can yield rewards. Bringing more awareness to the workplace — and even practicing mindfulness, in some cases — can improve behavior, focus, attention, and stress levels among team members. Luigi Guiso of the Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance & CEPR also found that, in the workplace, talk is cheap. It’s when team members believe their leaders are ethical and trustworthy that a company’s performance improves. Notably, millennial team members are among the most likely to jump ship when they feel a company’s culture and corporate responsibility are lacking.

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Hiring for corporate culture can help you add to and retain exceptional talent, enhancing your company’s vision and furthering its community impact. To streamline your interviews, CEOs, hiring managers, and HR reps recommend adding these questions to your list:

When assessing for cultural fit, Christopher K. Lee, MPH, CPHQ, career consultant and founder of, says he asks simple questions like:

1. What is our mission statement, and why does it excite you?

2. Why do you want to be a part of our work here?

3. Tell me about our company values. How do you feel about them?

Ask these questions to a truly talented recruit (one who has the passion and heart you’re looking for), and don’t be surprised if they fire a few revealing questions right back. As we mentioned above, millennials and many workers of all age groups are getting choosy when looking for a workplace that will practice what it preaches. Glassdoor suggests prospective hires ask their own “sneaky questions” to uncover a company’s corporate culture and determine if it’s a good match. In addition to the questions above, be prepared to answer interviewee questions, like: How long have you worked with the company? What activities are offered to team members? How many team members have flexible schedules? What was the biggest challenge in this department last year, and what was gained from it?

Crystal McFerran, VP Recruiting at Velo IT Group, asks these interview questions when hiring for culture, as well as skill:

4. Can you describe the most rewarding moment of your life?

5. What are you passionate about?

6. What are the positive aspects of your current job and work environment?

Count on the fact that a recruit who can describe the passions and rewards in any area of their life will bring drive and innovation to the table. In other words, tapping into what makes an interviewee tick can help you to find talent with fresh ideas and great potential for advancement. “We use all of these questions during our interview process, as cultural fit is our number one priority in hiring,” McFerran says.

Aaron Schmookler, co-founder and trainer at The Yes Works, asks these interview questions to shed light on the mentality a candidate may be operating with:

7. Tell me about a time when circumstances beyond your control made your job difficult. How did you respond? Walk me through your thought process and what you did about it.

8. Tell me about a time when a customer/coworker/supervisor did something that really angered you. How did you respond? Walk me through your thought process and what you did about it.

9. Tell me about a time when demands at work really conflicted with your needs. How did you respond? Walk me through your thought process and what you did about it.

Culture is contagious for better or for worse, Schmookler explains. “Culture comes down to how we think and behave in this community. It’s driven by habit and by attitudes.” Schmookler uses the questions above to pick out what he calls “culture-fit red flags” off the bat, weeding out candidates who have a victim mindset, who cannot or do not want to manage their temper, and who put self-interest ahead of the common good.

When asking these questions, you’re not looking for someone to be “perfect,” “selfless,” “saintly,” or “altruistic,” Schmookler says. Instead, you’re listening closely for a candidate’s ability to recognize their own human emotional responses to situations, as well as their ability manage those emotions. “Can they look for variables they can control and take ownership of results? Could they breathe through anger and remain calm in order to focus on the purpose at hand? Can they communicate about their needs and take the needs of others into account, looking for a win-win result?” And most importantly, Schmookler says, “Do they have the self-awareness to recognize their own missteps in real time, or at least in retrospect?”

When interviewing new hires, Carole Stizza, ACC, coach and owner of Relevant Insights Coaching, asks three quick questions to strengthen company culture:

10. Do you feel all people should be treated equally, all the time? And if so, explain why.

11. Have you ever been a part of a company that had a culture that helped you grow? If so, can you explain how that culture did that?

12. Can you share with me a time you were a part of an organizational change that turned out well? If so, can you walk me through how that change happened?

By answering these questions, Stizza says, your job candidate will allow you to understand if they can maintain the gift of unique individuals working together. “And by being a part of a positive company culture before, the job candidate is aware, has experience of what it feels like, and will be more open to continuing a positive company culture as they move into any new role – with or without being aware of the skills required.”

For companies working hard to make changes to a weakened corporate culture, Stizza suggests placing special emphasis on question number 12. A company hoping to improve their corporate culture needs a team member who has experienced what it takes to help change happen with a positive result. “This doesn’t require skills outside of learned experience, and it can come from any experience in life. There are young leaders arriving in the workforce every day. Use their insights because they also have the energy to innovate,” Stizza says.

As a Houston Chronicle Top Workplace for eight years running, a 2017 FORTUNE Best Workplace for Diversity, and a 2018 Great Place to Work and FORTUNE Best Workplace, we’re humbled to find that our team members love giving back to our borrowers as much as we do. Lending with a servant’s heart and treating our team members like family is the simple recipe behind Cornerstone’s continued success. Join the Cornerstone Talent Network and find out if our work-family is the right fit.

For educational purposes only. Please contact a qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources are deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

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