The value of values-based interviewing

Values-based interviewing
Getting to know you


The last few years have probably seen the most fundamental changes to recruitment and onboarding processes in decades.

Technology has allowed – and the pandemic demanded – that it is no longer mandatory to meet face-to-face. Understandably, this change left some managers feeling anxious about whether candidates might fit their current team.

During the second lockdown, MTA conducted an industry survey to explore how business leaders felt about remote hiring and onboarding. We found that the majority of companies across the media, information, technology and entertainment sectors were still making hires during the pandemic. However, 69% of leaders were found to be less confident when hiring and onboarding new team members.

This is understandable: hiring and onboarding have been converted to online practices with the use of virtual meetings for interviewing, induction and mentoring. But according to the survey, a staggering 75% of business leaders were concerned about using such remote tech to assess candidates’ abilities to work as part of a team, and 72% were worried about candidates’ wider cultural fit within the business.

Constraints foster innovation, and the constraints imposed by Covid-19 shone a light on the importance of values-based interviewing. When we cannot meet face-to-face to understand someone’s personality, values-based interviewing is one crucial way to determine cultural fit. If a candidate’s values and motivations align with those of the company, there is likely to be a much more mutually-rewarding and longer-term relationship.

So what are the steps to effective values-based interviewing? Crucially, business leaders must put in the work to understand what their company’s core values are. Without honest appraisal of what drives the company, there is no way to understand how a candidate’s values mesh with the company’s. Understanding company values has a whole host of advantages, including making the best possible hires and improved retention rates. There are a number of online tools to help with this, but the key is to be honest.

It first may be helpful to question one’s existing employees’ values and how they translate into their working behaviours. It is also important to note that smaller teams within bigger organisations might embrace additional values, and so it could be worth understanding team or department values in addition to broader company values. With this knowledge, an interviewer can ask the right behavioural and situational questions to understand whether the candidate’s traits, values and attitudes are actually in line with the role and company.

When compared to competency-based interviews, values-based interviews can seem less straightforward, but the two can be combined efficiently.  It is easier to compile a standard script for competency-based questioning, but good values-based questioning depends more on the skill of the interviewer being willing to drill into certain elements of a candidate’s answers.

Traditional values-based interviewing might ask a question such as: “Tell me about a time you have faced an ethical dilemma at work. What was the issue and what did you do about it?” While this is a reasonable question, it also gives a pretty clear signal to the candidate of how they should answer: there are few jobs that want you to make the unethical choice.

However, using more open, competency-based questions as a gateway to the values which underpin someone’s behaviour can be much more effective. So, “describe a situation where you had to take over leading a project from a colleague” may reveal more than one value whilst keeping the interviewer’s actual intentions hidden. After the initial situation has been described, the interview might ask “why did you make that decision?” or “what was it about your colleagues’ handling that led you to that conclusion?” This will help probe how collegiate the candidate is, for example, or illustrate their level of empathy.

The hiring manager’s values-based questions should:

  1. be based on a thorough role analysis;
  2. allow values to organically reveal themselves as candidates answer;
  3. be asked of all candidates;
  4. be carried out by a well-trained interviewer who understands the company values;
  5. be measured using a valid scoring criteria.

Values-based questions give rise to indicators that might not have otherwise been uncovered with competency-based questions alone. For example candidates who value innovation might be well suited for a product development role as opposed to a process-driven one: uncovering candidate’s values can give some indication as to where an individual is more likely to prosper and grow. Similarly, strong opinions that contrast with a company’s core values will most likely impede collaboration and innovation.

We have long practiced value-based interviewing: during the pandemic, it became invaluable. And it continues to make a difference for our clients today.

Martin Tripp

[email protected]

Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work across the media, video games, informationtechnologycommunications and entertainment sectors, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.