How to interview to build culture

Lara Morgan // July 15 // 0 Comments

Having made most mistakes in recruitment, in fact it feels like all, but also having learnt a great deal along the way through trial and alas error I wanted to share with you a few thoughts and sense checks for avoiding recruitment nightmares.

Culture first

It took 17 years of effort to define the process of best recruitment practice to make sure we put culture first, and I would firstly state I stick by the cultural and basic ability tests we put in place years ago.

However silly it seems, don’t be caught out by those without the digital literacy, decent written English and the mathematics required to demonstrate a commercial mind for your company. All applicants should be tested or provide evidence of their competency before you consider meeting them

Employ people not the CV

Clearly you can do a great deal through the myriad of data on individuals using LinkedIn and other sources, but as yet I have resisted making decisions based on data alone because I employ the people and the attitude first.

I am looking always for A grade and better players. Aptitude is teachable when someone has the character to do a job.

Clearly at more senior levels skills get out of date quicker.  I am more conscious in this scenario of testing the delivery, the action and the actual current up-to-date capabilities of those in senior roles whom perhaps have become lazy – more talk lass walk.

I hire doers not just talkers. People have to work to stay up to date.

Take a creative approach to interviews

Have as many people involved in the interview process as possible, try different atmospheres to observe how they respond and remember to listen to the candidate when you are taking notes, so you don’t miss what they are trying to tell you.

Have a raft of questions to ask – below I’ve attached a content rich FREE download for you to use and record notes in interviews. It includes a 4 page databank of interesting interview questions.

B9. Interview Questions and Assessment

Judging Character

As for my tips on judging character – be yourself when you interview and find the real person during the interview by thinking hard about the right sort of questions for the role you are offering. An accountant should love box filling, be mad about preciousm, love lists and meticulously proud of their organisational skills and efficiency at diary keeping.

A sales person should still appreciate hard graft, demonstrate the commitment skills for being persistent and creative, to get to decisions makers, and to innovate to win business.

Look beyond the obvious

I would employ a young person wanting to get into sales whose done a paper round and stuck at it for more than one season as this shows a motivation for money – were they saving for something nice, learning to appreciate the value of making their own money…saving up? Have they played sports and been competitive? How do they feel about winning and losing? You want to hire practicing, improving, hard working winners.

Recently I heard someone was asked for 10 references. Brilliant way of not being bamboozled with just a selective two. I will do this from now on, always learning from others. Do you ask people to give examples of failure, how they cope with constant change, the desire to improve, where do they see themselves in 5 years. These are critical questions and will usually give more interesting answers.

People Like Us

It is also rarely just me making the final decision, as my team, if working with the individual, have to buy into the individual and feel comfortable. Clearly very senior positions are critical to culture build and the leadership team should agree – but not always. Sometimes we drop into the fault of hiring PLU, (people like us) when the business needs not another Lara. (In fact rarely if ever would a business need another Lara!!!)

Retaining Culture

Factually you should work disproportionately hard on keeping the great recruits you have.

Build a culture where people would rather do anything but leave.

Irrespective, growing companies should always be looking out for their next great source of a genius voice in their companies. People who bring new fresh ideas and even better systems and processes we can learn from.

Irrespective this recruitment gig is not a perfect process and we still make mistakes. Keep a second in reserve and where possible recruit several of the same position on probation and whittle down to the best if you can afford it.

Read Up

There is a lot to choose from and much of it repeated, so choose a couple of newsletters or websites and stay with them or it’s information overload. If you are a fast growth SME, try:

Guardian Small Business Network
Real Business

Take a look at other blogs on our website where we have outlined our learnings from decades in sales leadership. Here’s a couple to start you off:

Go with your gut instinct
Avoid recruitment headaches

Access online resources

There are many online hubs offering resources and support. One of my favourites is Engage for Success.

You can also download any of the 50+ templates and frameworks FREE from our website here –

Always, always stick to the painful old adage – Fire fast and hire slow.


About the Author Lara Morgan

Lara Morgan is best known for growing Pacific Direct, from start-up to successful exit, 23 years later. She now invests her time in fast-growth companies and represents UKTI as an Export Ambassador, having previously exported to 110 countries. Her vast experience and business knowledge include specialisms in licensing luxury brands, manufacturing toiletries and selling to the hospitality environment through complex global distribution chains. She's also an expert in leadership and developing talent having learnt through her own experiences of employing 500 employees in an open fast growth sales culture.

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