Hagakure, the most famous collection of samurai wisdom as quoted by Ben Horowitz, co-founder of the Venture Capital and Private Equity firm Andreesen Horowitz in his book, “What You Do Is Who You Are, notes: 

“The extent of one’s courage or cowardice cannot be measured in ordinary times. All is revealed when something happens.” 

Well, a lot is happening today! Between rocketing into the Fourth Industrial Revolution with exponential growth and disruption to a world changing the way it works in the global pandemic of COVID-19, companies are struggling to adapt their cultures and business strategies. But it is in this struggle that what companies and people truly value are revealed. 

Company values that are described not just as words and beliefs, but as behaviours or “what you do” can act as a powerful rudder, orienting an organization’s decisions in the throes of change. And one of the most important decisions companies will make is who they hire. 

To help you translate the stabilizing force of company values into your hiring practices today, we’ve laid out four tips with examples to guide your values-hiring efforts. 


Translate Corporate Values into “Doing” Behaviours and Stories


Evaluating a candidate for a value such as transparency can ironically be very unclear if your interviewers and recruiters do not have agreement or understanding upon the behaviours that represent “transparency” in your organization. If your organization doesn’t already have stories and behaviours that describe your company values, build hiring alignment by creating a shared document with your hiring team that describes each value’s acceptable behaviours and unacceptable behaviours.

For inspiration, check out Medium’s article on Engineering Interviews: Grading Rubric.  


Utilize Behavioural Questions


Behavioural questions are crucial in moving a shallow interview experience based on “what” a candidate says they value to “how” a candidate has actually demonstrated or “done” the behaviour associated with the value. Note that creating behavioural questions for values can take some iteration to avoid leading questions or complicated wording. 

If we refer to Medium’s article again and their description of the company value “Build Trust,” we can create behavioural questions that can illuminate a candidate’s alignment to this value. Some examples include:

  1. Could you tell me about a time when you felt a lack of confidence in your team’s (or colleague’s) ability to produce results?
  2. Do you have an example of a time when you felt a lack of trust in your team to execute?
  3. Could you tell me about a time when a project you were leading went off the rails?
  4. Could you tell me about a project where you had to manage several people to achieve a goal or outcome and they were struggling to deliver? What Leadership style did you use to work with this situation?

Candidates who blame others, don’t take responsibility, and micromanage would all be misaligned with the value, “Build Trust” as per Medium’s acceptable behaviours.

NOTE: In some cases, these behavioural questions will not give you a one-and-done ability to evaluate alignment to values. Candidates may answer these questions quite well without reference to the value at all. Therefore, do not forget to build values evaluation throughout the hiring process as illuminated in point three below.

Listen and Watch for Values Alignment Across the Whole Hiring Experience

In addition to behavioural questions, three additional areas can provide insight into candidate value-alignment: 

1. Every interview answer is a potential value alignment evaluation opportunity. From pre screening questions, prescreens, video interviews to on-site interviews, all questions can reveal values-aligned or misaligned answers, especially with a trained hiring team who document those results.

Some teams have created interview guides with the values written on the side as reminders. Other companies have given each interviewer specific values to listen for through the whole process. All values-alignment data is ideally documented in the candidate file and referred to in the debriefing process.

2. Every interaction is a potential values alignment opportunity. Some companies have had the janitor report back on how a candidate treated them, and one hiring manager enjoyed peering over the atrium railing to note candidates who held the door open for other people as they entered the building. 

While those are more extreme examples, how a candidate treats the people they interact with in person or on email such as the front desk receptionist, recruiters, junior interviewers etc., can say volumes about their value alignment. Remember to note interactions of note in the candidate file for use in the debrief.

3. The questions a candidate asks in the interview process can reveal value alignment. For example, a collaborative environment that values “We All Win” and everyone sharing in positive results may not align with the competitive candidate who is asking about programs that showcase winners and “President’s Status” acclaim. 

4. Interview Referrals For Examples of Value-Aligned Behaviour.

As referrals net one of the top sources of values-aligned candidates, interviewing referrals as to the value-aligned behaviours their referred candidates demonstrated can be a richer source of information than just the usual name passed forward. Interviewing referrals also puts diligence into why the candidate is referred, keeping it about values and not homogeneity. 

Keep on top of who referred which candidate with a Talent Referral Technology such as Weevr and be sure to log the referral interview notes for values alignment in the candidate file to be used at the debriefing.

According to Horowitz, the samurai held and demonstrated their values (which they called “virtues”) so strongly that they were able to weather the changes of society and “enable the warrior class to rule Japan for seven hundred years.” While you might be concerned more with one to five years instead of seven hundred, identifying and hiring candidates who behave in alignment with your company values will help your company keep true to its decisions and culture through the changes of these extraordinary times.