Select Page

Team Talk: How to assess culture fit in the final interview

Share this article:

Last week we discussed how to conduct an in-person interview with a potential candidate. As a reminder, an in-person interview has two primary goals:

  1.  Make sure the candidate has the ability to do the job.
  2. Ensure the candidate is a culture fit.

With proper questioning, it’s usually pretty easy to figure out if the candidate can actually do the job. Harder to decipher is whether the candidate would be a good culture fit.   

What I am looking for in my final interview question is whether someone is a good culture fit. Just as the candidate is about to get up and leave, I put down my pen, close my notebook and say, “I just have one last question….(then I pause and ponder). If I don’t hire you for this job, why do you think that would be?”

Over my 20 years of asking this question, I have gotten a range of answers, from awkward silence to personal insults. The person who answered, “Because you’re not smart enough to realize how great I am,” did not get the job.

The real thing I am looking for in the answer to this question is how comfortable the candidate is sharing their answer. If they are comfortable with me, they were relaxed during the interview and have confidence in their ability to do the job, this question won’t throw them off. 

I want someone who can recognize their own faults and see their own mistakes while at the same time understanding what I am looking for and recognizing how it impacts their candidacy.

The best answer I ever got to the question was, “I think you probably found someone who was a better culture fit.” 

It was a great answer and really drove home the point for me. This candidate was intelligent, interesting, highly qualified and could definitely do the job. And her answer was honest and entirely accurate. Ultimately I took her answer to heart, and I hired someone else — someone who was a better culture fit.

But before that person was hired, they came in for one last interview. Usually, only one person is brought in for a third interview on any given round of hiring. The purpose of the third interview is to really get to know someone. 


Have a team member conduct the third interview


Ideally, this interview can be conducted by another team member in a much less formal setting. A strategy that often works is having someone else from your team, another team’s employee in the same position you are hiring for, or your managing broker meet with the candidate; instead of having the meeting in the office, it’s ideal to take the meeting off-site.  

I have had my long-time assistant take many candidates for a casual coffee around the corner before we make a hiring decision. The existing team members are going to need to get along with the new member, and candidates will behave differently with different people. The more casual you can make the interview, the more likely you are to find the real person behind the interview candidate. 

Having my long-time assistant take candidates out has probably saved me years of headaches and bad hires. People are more forthcoming with someone they see as a potential co-worker or equal versus how they behave when talking with a potential boss.


Keep it casual, light and informational


The third interview is best kept casual, light and informational. Ask about the candidate’s goals, hopes, plans and dreams. Just get them talking and figure out who they are. And then make a decision.  

It’s important to remember that just because someone made it to a third interview, it doesn’t mean you have to hire them. You can say no and go start another round of hiring. Don’t forget, hire slow, fire fast.

However, if you find the right candidate who can do the job and fits your culture, you need to prepare a job offer and act fast. Great candidates are applying for multiple jobs and you don’t want to lose out.

In our next column, we will discuss what goes into a job offer and onboarding a new team member. 

Share this article: