I talk often about the importance of values in an organization. I believe they are one of your most powerful marketing and recruiting tools, when used correctly.

But in order for this to be true, your team needs to fully embody the value of the organization. This is because the true evidence of values lie in the actions your teams take.

Ultimately, organizations don’t have values, people do. And if your people don’t truly share your values it’s going to be difficult for them to operate in ways that are consistent with them, especially when under stress. When things get hard, who you naturally are tends to come out.

You can train for skill. It’s much harder to train for values. Solid SOPs and robust training can sometimes mask a values misalignment. But it’s better to just have folks who are already aligned.

Here’s how to do it.

Identify your values

This is obvious. But if you don’t have values clearly articulated you won’t be able to assess candidates on them.

I’ve written about how to do this in detail elsewhere. But a short version:

As an example, a client who provides fractional CMO services wrote down meaning, momentum and process as their core values. For meaning, they wrote down the following:

<aside> 💡 Meaning

We believe in the dignity of work. We believe work is the ideal lab for forging character. We believe the next project, the next client, the next launch is an opportunity to do the work of our lives. How we model meaning:

Design a Values-Based Interview Process

The traditional interview process can often lead to values misalignment. This is because the focus of the interviews are on the skills or competencies the candidate has, not the values they do or do not possess.

Instead, conduct a values-based interview process. Have your first round of interviews be entirely to assess values alignment. You can assess for skill and competency fit in later rounds, but get value fit right first.

The best way to do this is through the creation of behavior-based interview questions. These are questions that ask them to think of previous situations where they demonstrated a value.

The questions you ask will depend on the values you’ve articulated. For example, our client that had written down meaning as one of their values settled on the following questions for to assess for that value:

<aside> 💡 Behavior-based questions to assess for “meaning” alignment:

Note that we aren’t simply asking them what they think about a particular value. Candidates are smart enough to know not to disagree with a value outright. They also aren’t used to being inside of organizations that truly embody the values, so tend to perform for you, whether they’re really aligned or not.

If you insist on being more forward with your line of questioning, you can use the same values pair exercise you used when articulating your own values. Give them two equally “good” values, only one of which is yours. Ask them to choose among them. But understand this is a blunt instrument, and could lead to some false negatives. They might have your values, but just have the other values more.

Evaluate Candidates Relative to Each Other

As you conduct the values interviews, rate each candidate on a scale of 1-10 for each value. If you want to get more granular with it, you can attempt to use the same Importance / Effort framework. But that can be hard to accurately gauge in the relatively limited time you have with each candidate. A simple 1-10 scale is usually sufficient.

In order for this to work, you want to try to normalize the data as much as you can. You can do this by asking the candidates the exact same questions, and by having the same people interview all candidates.

Modeling Values When Making the Offer

Once you’ve had candidates pass the value interview and survive subsequent skill-based interviews, it’s time to make an offer. The way you make the offer can be an opportunity to reinforce your values and the first real taste of how the organization operates.

Some suggestions on how to do this well:

At a minimum, be on the lookout for ways your benefits might conflict with your stated values.

Embed your values in your hiring.

Hiring for values alignment is a critical step in building a team that embodies the values of your organization. By identifying your values, designing a values-based interview process, evaluating candidates relative to each other, and modeling values when making the offer, you can build a team that is aligned with the core principles of your organization.