How to Interview Like Barbara Walters to Identify Cultural Fit

As a hiring manager, you’ve been tasked with fine-tuning your skills in finding the qualities of the company and candidate characteristics that match. You’ve spent enough time coaching employees to understand what works for your team, so your interviewing skills are near pristine. Unlike riding a bike, however, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Remember the interviews on 20/20 – some of the most provocative stories, right? Well, you can find the thought-provoking stories in your candidates if you employ the interview tools used by some of the most renowned journalists. Here’s how you can identify cultural fit by embracing your innerBarbara Walters.

1.  Identify cultural commonalities

Journalists, Barbara Walters included, spend a lot of time researching their topics and finding the best people to interview for a well-rounded story. Likewise, you spent time and energy going through applicant resumes to find the best candidate to create a well-rounded team.

Between their work history and skills, you have an idea of their personality and how it might fit into the organization. Before you walk into the interview head first, think of a few good ice breaker questions or conversation starters that will provoke cultural revelations about your candidate. Ask about a project or what brought them to the area if their last position was in another location.

“When you’re interviewing someone, you’re in control. When you’re being interviewed, you think you’re in control, but you’re not.” –Barbara Walters

2.  Keep questions open-ended

“Yes-no” questions rarely give any insight into the candidate’s history. Their validity to the role is heavily based on their capability to adapt to the requirements of the position and the demands of their supervisors. However, if you only leave room for close-ended questions, you have little to no information to glean this from.

Make sure your interview questions provoke the most complete information. Strategically target questions to get an answer about a specific facet of a candidate’s resume or application without alerting the candidate to the answer you’re fishing for.

“‘What’s the biggest misconception about you?’ That’s easier to do than saying, ‘Tell me why you married your sister.’” – BarbaraWalters

3.  Talk to references

Barbara Walters rigorously researched the stories and people she interviewed before she walked into the interview room. While you don’t have a story to uncover, per say, you do have an individual you researched thoroughly. This includes (but not limited to) background checks, employment history, personality assessments, and of course, the reference check.

You need someone that knows your candidates better than you do, that have worked with them, and / or know their personality traits in the workplace. Reach out to these people because they will know the strengths and weaknesses of your candidates better than themselves. Ask the references questions similar to this:

“Company policies aside, why would you rehire this candidate?”

4.  Remember, it’s a conversation

You’ve seen or listened to a plethora of interviews over the course of your life thus far. What have you noticed? Yes, the journalist will ask a question, but so will the interviewee. Likewise, the journalists will make statements before they ask questions. These roles in the interview are not stagnant, they should be dynamic.

Above all, remember you’re not the only one asking questions; the candidate isn’t the only one providing answers. It’s a two-way discussion about their fit for the team and their adaptability to the position.

Barbara Walters has spent her life interviewing people for the best stories; you can interview candidates for the best new hires. Really, they are two sides of the same coin. Use strategic questions to glean information from candidates and get an insight into their cultural (and functional) fit in the team. Remember, it’s a two-way conversation founded on information from the candidate’s application, resume and references. With these tips, you can become a successful interviewer like Barbara Walters.

Bio: Ryan Mead

Vitru is a personality assessment online application that provides tools to evaluate and build better teams. Powered by science yet practical and easy to use for a variety of teams. From students and nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies Vitru works!

Great organizations, regardless of size or mission, understand that powerful team chemistry is impossible to force; but when it happens, it’s magic.

Vitru allows team leaders to create and assess teams virtually and in doing so helps quantify what makes an outstanding team outstanding.

Want more? Visit our blog and sign up to automatically receive our fresh-weekly articles.

Tweet me at @GoVitru

Views: 431

Comment by Daniel Fogel on August 14, 2015 at 10:25am

Ryan thanks for posting.  These are some great tips.  What advice do you have for closing out the interview?

Comment by Ryan Mead on August 26, 2015 at 10:06am


Check out the Vitru blog for more tips, tricks and winner advice on interviews and hiring for cultural fit!


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