People & Teams

How to establish if someone is a good fit for your team?

Skills and experience aren't the only factors to establish if a candidate will do well as a team member. How do you check for 'team culture' matching?

  • Director of People & Culture at Futurelearn

    Cultural fit is hugely important for creating effective teams and providing individuals with fulfilling work. However, you also need to be really careful that you don’t end up creating a homogenous team where potential talent is excluded because they don't quite fit the status quo.

    In order to tell if someone is going to suit working in your team you need to be really clear with yourselves about the most important parts of your culture. Whilst you might tend to socialise a lot together outside of work, this element of your culture will likely exclude huge swathes of potential talent and is not something I’d advise basing cultural fit on.

    Instead focus on what your core values are as a team and ask individuals to talk about when they’ve exhibited that value themselves.
    For instance, one of our company's values is ‘Be Open’. In this case you might ask people:

    • What do you think this might mean for how you’d approach this role?
    • What example can you provide of when being open has benefited you in the past?

    You could also consider inviting the new candidate to spend a morning working with your team as part of the interview process. At the FutureLearn Tech team we run pairing sessions as part of the interview processes. There’s no reason you couldn’t do this type of thing for non-technical roles. It’s a great way for you to see how the individual interacts with the wider team and also for the interviewee to get a sense of whether they like the idea of working in your company's environment.

    FutureLearn has a clear description what to expect from the interview process. Consider writing one for your company to that the new hires can prepare better.

    Ask Tess a follow-up question!

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  • The Team at JAM

    To move forward with a product you need an A-Team. But, it can be challenging to keep up your Product Team Market Fit (PTMF) as the team scales.

    When assessing the strengths of new team members skills are an obvious factor to watch for. But an even more important one is team fit. The team is a network—its power depends on the strength of its nodes. A weak node will weaken the structure and make it run less efficiently in the long run.

    Have a strong culture.

    Team culture stems from company values and is notoriously hard to test for. Brainstorm your team's principles together before expanding the ranks. Netflix Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord advises asking yourself, as a manager, for example:

    • If things are going to be amazing in six months, what does that look like? What talent do you need to get there?
    • Who would you fight hard to keep at your company? Which of their behaviours do you value?
    • If one of your current employees says they are leaving, would you beg them to stay? Why? What do they bring in to the team?

    A team is like a product: Establish a user persona.

    Just like an ideal customer persona, you can define a persona of your ideal hire. How? Based on the shared features of your current team. Ask each other the same creative questions you’d be asking a potential new member during the interview:

    • What’s the one thing you believe that most people don’t?
    • What three books would you add to a team library and why?
    • Harry Potter or LOTR?

    Sounds like another fun team task for a Friday lunch meeting, right?

    A candidate is like a feature: Test their operation.

    The decision on making someone a part of the team is not just yours. It’s team-wide. Once you found a candidate (external or internal) give them a task which requires interacting with the rest of the product team.

    Is it a candidate for the team?

    Data-fanatics can try to add a quantitative measurement to the review process. For example, adapt feature prioritisation score cards to evaluate a candidate. Assign points on pre-agreed metrics, for example, following the Kano model:

    • Basic features: Communication, helpfulness.
    • Performance features: Critical thinking, creativity.
    • Excitement features: Sense of humour.

    Is it a team for the candidate?

    It’s as much your team evaluating the new member's fit as them evaluating your team’s fit for what they are looking for. If you all throw jokes from The Office, and organise Avengers-themed parties, while they haven’t watched either series, they might not feel comfortable. Give them a score card too and ask to assess your team.

    Ask JAM a follow-up question!

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