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Are You Hiring for Cultural Fit or Impression Bias?


cultural fit or impression bias

It’s encouraging that cultural fit has become a large part of the hiring process; once upon a time, culture was certainly less important to hiring managers. But this shift in focus has also led to a shift in impression bias among hiring managers. The fact is many hiring managers are not adequately equipped to determine whether their candidates’ personality and values will fit in well with the team. Instead, it has led to a lot of poorly designed interview questions that don’t actually produce any insight into candidates. If you recognize your hiring managers in the following, it may be time to review your hiring process.

Cultural Fit or Impression Bias

About the time when cultural fit became important to the workplace, so too did oddball questions, brain teasers, and puzzles. This has also led to a confusing candidate experience. Imagine when a candidate walks into an interview and is asked what they had for breakfast. Is that relevant or predictive of future job success? Apparently Banana Republic thinks so. Maybe I’m a poor employee because I just had espresso for breakfast. These kinds of strange interview questions have become the norm in hiring, but they do nothing to assess cultural fit. Instead, questions like these could point to an impression bias where interviewers favor candidates with answers more like their own.
So how does one assess candidates for cultural fit? Let’s start by adjusting the hiring process. It’s time to abandon the quirky questions that don’t actually shed any insight into the candidate. And it’s time to ditch the brain teasers, which may be entertaining for the hiring manager, but ultimately worthless to predict cultural fit or success. Consider the following as better indicators of cultural fit:
Introduce the team in a panel interview. Get to the heart of cultural fit faster with a panel interview. The problem many hiring managers have is their team is dispersed geographically. A great solution to that is conducting a video interview. Up to 15 team members can log on from any location. What better way to assess whether the candidate’s personality will fit with the team than by getting them together?
Ask real scenario based questions. I’m not sure who dreamt up the idea that answering a brain teaser would predict success, but it seems a little bit farfetched. I know many smart people who would be able to answer a brain teaser quite easily, but they wouldn’t be able to handle high stress environments. If you’re looking for a better way to assess cultural fit, ask scenario based questions. These questions are great indicators of whether a candidate will be successful in the role. They are also great because they let the candidate know more about the culture of the company. It gives an opportunity for both the hiring manager and the candidate to assess cultural fit without all the mystery and game playing.
Ask questions of past performance. They say past performance is a great indicator of future performance. If you’re wondering whether someone who looks like a go getter on paper would be a great fit for your high energy team, ask about high pressure scenarios they encountered. These types of questions are great for assessment because candidates will reveal a lot of their thought process, attitude, and accountability in their answer. I doubt you’ll get the same kind of relevant information by asking someone an oddball question like “Describe the color yellow to someone who is blind” (asked by Spirit Airlines.)
Ask a candidate how they work best. Sometimes, the best way to determine whether a candidate would fit into the team is by asking them how they prefer to work. Some people prefer to work alone and others love a team environment. You may find a candidate is flexible but they work best at one pace versus another. These kinds of answers are great for assessing cultural fit because you can easily assess candidates on relevant information.

Determining cultural fit isn’t about tricking candidates or frustrating them. It should be about really getting to know a candidate’s capabilities and working style. You can’t determine that by asking misleading questions that lead to impression bias. Try these simple adjustments to your interviews and hire better.


Catherine Hess is the Marketing Manager at GreenJobInterview. Catherine comes to us from the HR world, where she regularly wrote articles about recruiting solutions, talent development, and more. From her position, Catherine seeks to increase awareness of the company and grow the brand. You can connect with Catherine here: