How to Use Group Interviews to Determine Culture Fit

Overhead shot of four people sitting on beanbag chairs of various colors.

Travel insurance comparison website Squaremouth makes a bold claim on what it looks for in new employees. "A culture fit is just as important, if not more, that a candidate's experience," says Megan Moncrief, director of sales and marketing at the company. For an organization that "operates more like a family than a company," finding a personality that suits the rest of the office is paramount. Squaremouth transfers its collaborative work environment to its hiring process by using group interviews to determine culture fit.

Group interviews at Squaremouth vary in size, "ranging from additional managers to the entire office," according to Moncrief. Before interviews, employees manually evaluate each application they receive, which includes a questionnaire covering everything from professional experience to personality traits. Participants are encouraged to prepare questions specific to the person. "We try to truly get to know the candidate with creative and sometimes, unusual, questions," Moncrief says.

Employees present at interviews often come from various departments in Squaremouth given the company's emphasis on teamwork. "Most positions will end up working with various different departments here. For this reason, we think everyone should have a say in the hire," Moncrief explains. The group setting is also an opportunity for a candidate to evaluate their potential colleagues, allowing them to experience firsthand the unique work environment of Squaremouth. According to Moncrief, "Just as we learn more about the candidate, they should leave with a more accurate and well-rounded view of us.

"We are a very transparent company, " says Moncrief. "For this reason, it is extremely important that anyone who joins us is comfortable with this type of transparency and open communication from day one." How does Squaremouth evaluate a candidate's comfortability with this value? Open discussions on salary. While salary negotiations take place with a manager, employees are aware of each position's pay, and candidates are free to bring it up during the group interviews. Moncrief says this openness helps encourage respect and admiration among coworkers: "When everyone knows what everyone makes, we are able to hold each other to a higher standard, to push each other, and in rare cases, to identify when an employee isn't pulling their weight." Potential Squaremouth employees have to be ready to openly discuss salary not just during the hiring process -- the company sometimes uses group interviews and votes to negotiate raises.

Like the majority of the interview process, the final hiring decision is a joint effort. "Regardless of the position, the hiring decision always comes down to a group vote," says Moncrief.

While atypical, the collaborative hiring process at Squaremouth has intrigued some interviewees, who went on to become employees. One customer service representative says it was "unconventional compared to other interviews I've had, which was refreshing." A marketing assistant says, "I really enjoyed the interview process because the funny one-off questions allowed me to relax and regroup before another serious question." The employee even describes, "I was allowed to take off my shoes."

While you may not want job candidates sporting bare feet at your next hiring interview, Moncrief makes a strong argument for initially investing in culture fit: "We believe that skills can be trained and improved upon, but attitude can't be taught ."

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