“Finally, we found someone who is the perfect fit for our culture.”

“How do you know?”

“In her interview she answered all the questions with what I was looking for.”

Ever have this feeling after interviewing a candidate and then being totally surprised by the actual culture fit after hiring him or her? I have. One person I hired completely snowed me. The suit he wore was never seen again, nor were the values and fit he proclaimed.

How do you truly find out about a candidate’s character. Here are three areas I have found that can reveal a person’s character; their history prior to age 20, relationships, and treatment of the lowest levels in the organization.

History Prior to Age 25

Much of the science around personality that supports our character is mostly formed by the age of 25. So why not explore what a person was like in their early years? Some might say, going down that road is creepy. No way am I bringing up middle school in an interview.

Consider an approach that explores a candidate’s interests. Asking a simple question such as: How have early interests influenced where you are today? You may find influences by mentors such as teachers, coaches, religious leaders, or other associations had a significant impact. I have found individuals readily talk about those influences.

For instance; I interviewed a 32-year-old who grew up with a grandparent who was the victim of a stroke. My interviewee spent a lot of time with his grandfather one-on-one who was nonverbal and in a wheel chair. In his teen years he regularly visited his grandfather without his parents to spend time and often took him on day trips. The same individual continues to work with the special need’s population. What do those experiences tell you about that individual?

How a musician, athlete, student, or community service advocate took on their challenges reveals their character. It is up to you to interpret.


What do your relationships say about you and your character.? We spend time with people we enjoy and are often like-minded. We all belong to professional and social organizations outside of the workplace that form our network. Exploring those relationships may provide insights on what is important to the candidate. Maybe more important is how an individual handles close relationship. I have been amazed at what has been revealed in an interview. People have told me about dysfunctional relationships with family members, close friends, and roommates.

My grandmother told me, how someone treats their mother tells you what kind of person they are. Extending that thought to close relationship can be revealing.

Guiding the conversation into these areas is your challenge. However, it easily comes up when talking about life experiences, where someone is from, and interests.

Treatment of Those with No Power

Ever experience an individual berating an airline ticket agent, waitress, or maintenance worker? What were your thoughts of that person’s character?

A practice I adopted for interviews was to ensure each person would wait in my outer office where my administrative assistant was located. My assistant engaged in conversations with every interviewee. That interaction and any interactions on the phone or via email became part of my evaluation of the candidates.

There is the story of Walt Bettinger the CEO of Charles Schwab Corporation, in a business strategy class. The professor gave them a blank sheet of paper for their final exam and said: I’ve taught you everything I can teach you about business in the last 10 weeks, but the most important message, the most important question, is this — What’s the name of the lady who cleans this building?”

How you treat the individuals at the lowest level on the organization chart says more about you than anything else.

What to evaluate if someone is a fit for your organization. Consider exploring the above areas.

Want some insights into how you are thought of; evaluate yourself on the three areas.