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🙂 Establishing culture add

Performance metrics, sales figures and stock prices all fluctuate, but at the end of the day, the one differentiating factor that you have as a company is your culture. Your culture is the set of values that determine how people at your company work together.

As companies grow, they tend to get better at explaining their own cultures, but in the beginning, when you’re still figuring things out, it often comes down to unwritten rules and implicit patterns of doing things.

Because of this ephemeral nature, it can be hard to ensure that new hires augment your existing culture. This is why it’s so incredibly important to have a method in place where you try and tease out the values and motivations of people you’re looking to employ, and establish whether they'll add to your culture.

You can do this in an interview setting in a few different ways:

  • Conduct a structured interview to establish whether the candidate will add to your culture.
  • Have the candidate meet the team
  • Have a simulation day
  • Have a founder chat

Structured interview

A formal structured interview can establish whether the developer's values will add to your company’s values and mission.

A few good questions to establish whether a developer adds to your culture:

  • Can you relate a specific instance in your career where you collaborated across different teams?
  • Think back to one of the most energy-depleting periods in your current or most recent position. How did you respond to it? What was the outcome?
  • What attributes do you look for in a company when applying for a position?
  • What environment helps you do your best work, and how could a manager support you in this?

It is super important that you clearly explicate beforehand what your culture is — and what kinds of questions you’ll be including in this interview.

Meet the team

Your existing team’s opinion can be a really useful barometer when assessing overall fit, because they’re already living and breathing the culture. What’s more, you’ve spent a lot of time trying to hire the best possible team — why not show them off?

Smart people tend to want to hang out and solve problems with other smart people, so showing that you can provide this kind of environment can be a super compelling reason to join a company.

These interactions are not only useful for you, but for the developer you're interviewing as well, as they give them an opportunity to pose questions that they might not feel comfortable asking in a traditional interview scenario. If you decide to go down this route, remember to take some time to debrief everyone involved and gather their feedback.

Remember to cater for remote: Whereas meeting the wider team might happen naturally if the developer comes into the office for an interview, this will not occur in a remote interview setting. Therefore, if your process is remote, make it an explicit part of your process to meet the wider team virtually.

Here are some ways you can have the developer you're interviewing meet the team:

Be structured with sessions: Book slots between different team members and the developer, so everyone can introduce themselves and ask any questions they might have. This can involve the developer meeting different team members one on one, or the entire team.

One of the goals in these discussions should be to drive the conversation towards what they look for in a team and how they tend to function best in a team environment.

Arrange a team meal or coffee: Inviting the developer to join the team for lunch or a coffee breaks can be a great way to break the ice and facilitate discussion. If this can’t happen on-site, have a remote lunch or coffee break using online services such as UberEats and cover their cost for this, if possible.

More resources

You can combine a structured interview with a chance to meet the entire team by conducting a panel interview. Read more about:

  • How we approach this at OfferZen
  • The benefits of this type of interview
  • The questions to ask in a panel interview.

Simulation day

A simulation day involves a developer taking time to come to your office for a full day or two to do real work with the rest of your team. Doing this can give you an invaluable level of insight into how they would approach solving real business problems and integrate into the rest of your team, while also giving the developer a window into what a typical workday at your company can look like.

This can come at a pretty steep cost in terms of both time, planning and dedicated team resources during the course of the simulation days. We’ve run a lot of simulation days as part of our own hiring process. In our experience, running a simulation day of 4 - 5 hours is the most cost-efficient and suitable for the majority of roles you might be hiring for.

Get your template

Read our detailed guide on running a good simulation day to hire developers here — and download a template here.

Founder chat

While a company’s culture cannot be created overnight by any single person, the leaders and founders have the most influence in setting the tone and deciding on the direction that it takes. Every hire that you make shapes this fledgling culture, doubly so in a company’s early stages.

In order to be able to make informed decisions about who should influence this growth, founders should be talking to every new hire.

As important as this discussion is as an assessment tool, a culture is made from the values of more than just the founders, so it’s important to be cognisant of just how much stock you’re putting in just one or two people’s opinions when doing something like this.

A pretty bad situation would be one where you’ve hired a number of people and the only thing that they have in common is the shared trait of “well the founders liked them”. If you’re able to diversify the number of people you get input from, you should definitely do so.

Once your team and hiring process start to scale significantly, it can be very easy for a founder’s limited availability to become a bottleneck. We often see this happening around the 50 hire mark, however we’ve seen examples of companies where the founders personally chat with everyone well past hire number one hundred.

If this situation arises, keep in mind that there are other options available outside of shepherding two people into a coffee shop booth; remote tools like Zoom or Google Hangouts can make it a lot easier to fit meetings like these into people's schedules.