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Woman with clipboard considers company core values as she  interviews a potential candidate
Integrating core values into your interview process

By Michelle Kedem (she/her/hers)


Core values can be easy to identify, but without proper implementation they often get stuck at the “wishful thinking” level. As more workplaces recognize the importance of defining core values, many struggle putting those values into practice.

One way to bring your core values to life is to integrate them into your interview process. 

Why this benefits your organization
Every interview is an opportunity to reinforce with candidates and staff how committed your organization is to its values. This upfront approach to hiring saves you time and energy by weeding out prospective colleagues who don’t share your values and attracting the ones who do.

Articulating your core values on your website, in job descriptions, and in interviews helps candidates develop a clear understanding of what your company is all about—and whether or not they could see themselves at your organization. It also helps candidates prepare for conversations with hiring managers, particularly questions about whether or not a candidate will thrive inside your organization.

3 Key Steps 
There are three key steps to helping your organization make successful hiring decisions based on its core values: 

1. Craft job postings that include your core values.
2. Create interview questions that address your culture and core values.
3. Develop an interview rubric to evaluate candidates according to your values.

Step 1: Craft job postings that include your core values
Once you have your written values, include them in every single job posting.This will help each applicant know what to expect, which will in turn create a candidate pool that is more likely to actively seek a workplace like yours. 

There are simple ways to integrate your core values into job descriptions: 

  • Provide a link to your public web page that lists your values.
  • Create a summary statement that highlights your values and what they mean at your organization. 

Your approach will depend on your company’s communications style and preferences. Whichever you choose, the most important part of this step is consistency: ensure that every job description includes the same elements, in whatever way makes the most sense for your organization and your operational needs.

Step 2: Create interview questions that address your culture and core values
Once you’ve taken the time to include core values in every job description, you’ll be in a position to have in-depth conversations with interviewees that naturally incorporate your values.

As you craft your standard interview questions, keep these two rules in mind:

  • Ask open-ended questions that don’t point to a specific answer: This will help you avoid implicit biases and discourage candidates from feeling any need to “game the system” by giving you the answer they think you want to hear.
  • Use follow-up questions to probe deeply: This will allow the core values and workplace cultural preferences to surface naturally in the conversation. 

Based on these guidelines, here are a few possible interview prompts and follow-up questions to ask:

  • What are the two to three most important factors you want to find in your next step?
    • What type of organizational culture is ideal for you?
    • How are you hoping to grow and develop in your next step?
    • What types of questions or ideas are most compelling for you to tackle next in your career?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to meet a goal and felt that the work circumstances and organizational culture were ideal.
    • What made them ideal?
    • What kind of team were you working with?
    • Who were your colleagues, and what was the interaction like?
  • Now, tell us about a time when you felt like there were significant roadblocks between you and your goal.
    • What were they, and how did you address them?
    • Were there any surprises as you moved ahead?
    • Knowing what you know now, what could you have done differently?

Step 3: Develop an interview rubric to evaluate candidates according to your values
Once you’ve crafted interview questions that reflect your values, create a rubric or similar set of metrics to assess how your candidates respond to these questions. Consider including examples of answers that perfectly capture your values, answers that are sufficient, and answers that don’t reflect your values at all. During the interview, take note of how candidates’ past professional or personal experiences align with your values and where they fall in your rubric. This should help identify which candidates share the core values most important to your organization.

The Takeaway 
It’s not enough to say that you want to work toward your core values; your organization must embed them in your operations and culture. When those values are transparently in place and lived out every day—starting as soon as you hire someone—your team can function from a place of certainty. And new members can know from day one what is expected of them, empowering them to join you at full strength.