September 2019 | Point of View

Why we focus on values alignment instead of fit during interviews

Why we focus on values alignment instead of fit during interviews

When it comes to traditional styles of employee interviews, it’s fair to say that the formats haven’t shifted much over recent years. However, recruiting high-quality employees can be challenging in today’s competitive marketplace. Company perks and benefits are constantly expanding to lure and retain top talent in a tight market for employers and evolving to meet the needs and desires of a changing workforce. As such, outdated recruitment processes have to adapt to accommodate the changing market and the needs of the candidates, as well as the needs of the employer.

Assessing the impact of our interview process on recruiting

As our firm continues to evolve and grow, we strive to validate and look for ways to improve our recruitment processes. In particular, we want to shine an honest spotlight on ourselves and ensure we are truly focusing on inclusive, open-minded, and unbiased approaches.

In pursuit of our goal to improve our recruitment practices, we paid special attention to our interview process; we wondered if we were unintentionally ruling out prospective candidates or advancing others due to unconscious bias. For example, it was possible that a candidate from Michigan State could be favored by one of our recruiters or interviewers who also studied there, carrying a subconscious personal bias towards the candidate, and favor them in a positive light due to the shared sense of experience.

When you’re invited to the office for an interview, you participate in several different structured conversations that are intended to assess your technical and functional skills, problem-solving and communications skills, and critical thinking abilities. Previously, the process also included a less structured interview that was intended to assess for “fit” within our culture.

The other interview formats are necessary to understand your skills and how they approach their work– but the last one, the fit interview, had little structure and no definition on what this meant from a firmwide view. Without parameters of what ‘fit’ means, it’s hard to know if you are getting an unbiased character-based interview. Instead, we found that these interviews tend to lead us to hire people who are similar to us, rather than people who may add new perspectives and ideas – something we view as critical to bringing the best solutions to our clients.

In the interest of diversifying our team, we adapted our interview process to focus on hiring for values alignment.

How the values interview helps us establish a partnership with candidates

Our values contribution interview has two areas of focus: it helps the interviewer assess the candidate’s alignment to our core values, and it helps set expectations for what it’s like to work at West Monroe.

During the interview, we ask you behavioral-style questions focused on our core values, which reflect our culture and mission to build the next generation of leaders. This approach helps us shift from making decisions based not on likability, but on how both the you and the firm can mutually contribute to each other’s success.

Introducing a new element to our interview process is a big change, and it was important that our people felt comfortable conducting this type of interview. We created a values contribution interview training to ensure employees understand the framework, how to assess for values alignment, and how to avoid topics that may trigger an unconscious bias response. Employees are required to take the training before conducting a values interview.

The model that we’ve adopted is an effort at developing an honest partnership between two parties who will work together for the collaborative benefit. After all, the fact that our company is 100% employee-owned means we want candidates who feel jointly responsibility for the success of the organization. This has arguably become the most important and distinctive aspect of our updated interview process and helps set expectations on both sides.

Accepting the challenge: an empowering approach to recruitment

We know interviewing is a two-way street, and a values based approach is one method we use to understand if you will succeed at West Monroe. When we assess candidates on their internal motivations as well as their external skillset, the prospective employee can see whether this is a company that truly has their best interests at heart.

In this way, the approach empowers both you as the employee, and the firm as the employer. Each of us can set out their expectations for a relationship before making a commitment, and therefore both parties can feel satisfied that the right decision is being made.

When I look back at how we implemented our values-based interviews, it was challenging at first to shift our thinking—but we all agreed it was the right shift for our company. As employee-owners, it’s not just about going through the motions – we really do live our values day by day. That’s the attitude we take to our recruitment process.

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