How and Why to Assess Core Values in Candidates

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How and Why to Assess Core Values in Candidates

Value-based assessments have always been popular in organizations, but today, they’re more popular than ever. With even large-scale organizations like Southwest Airlines and Aegon adopting core-value based hiring, many businesses are wondering why and how they can do the same.

Core values represent a candidate’s core beliefs relating to moral questions and answers. Most organizations benefit from learning about these values before making a hire but it’s important not to rely too heavily on value-based assessments.

What are Core Values?

Core values make up a set of personal beliefs which are the guiding principles behind an organization or person’s behavior and actions. These values define who and what a person or organization is at its deepest level by defining what they care about, will act on, and are motivated by.

Core values include but are not limited to:

  • Religious, or lack of, beliefs
  • Dependability
  • Humor
  • Passion
  • Fitness
  • Creativity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Empathy
  • Courage
  • Helping others

A core value is only a core value if it is a motivating factor of their personality, something that they act on and make decisions based on.

Why Assess Core Values in Candidates?

Assessing core values in candidates can tell you what they value, which, in turn, will tell you what they will do and why. Core values also allow you to find candidates whose core values align with or match those of your organization to ensure that they are a good fit, are more likely to stay in your organization, and can contribute in ways that align with the organization’s goals.

Ben & Jerry’s shares their core values on their website. Here, the organization lists three primary values, which are broken down into more complex values:

  • Make fantastic ice cream (product excellence)
  • Manage our company for sustainable financial growth (dependability, reliability, success, profit)
  • Use our company in innovate ways to make the world a better place (Empathy, helping others, environmental good)

Ben & Jerry’s could use these core values they hold to determine that someone who doesn’t care about their product probably isn’t a good fit for the company. Instead, they’d be looking for someone with core values like “creativity, reliability, dedication, empathy, and willingness to help others.”

These core values would help Ben & Jerry’s find candidates who would not only show up to do their job, but who would be excited about the product, the company mission, continuing excellence, and helping others through the organization.

How do You Assess Core Values in Candidates?

Assessing core values in a candidate can be a tricky process, largely because you have to learn a lot about your candidate in a relatively tiny window. Most organizations take the approach of using structured interviews to learn about individual behaviors and motivations. You may also ask specific questions about core values, although many candidates will tell you what they think you want to hear rather than how they actually feel, so most assessment centers will take an indirect approach.

One common way to determine core values is using assessments and questions. Here, you can ask questions such as:

  • What is a major driving factor in your life?
  • If you could change one thing about your previous job, what would it be?
  • What have you learned in the last 6 months and why?
  • What are you looking for in a role and why?
  • What is one of your most momentous life decisions?
  • How would you handle X scenario?

It’s also important to work core values into job descriptions, into assignments, and into how you evaluate candidates and their behavior.

Behavioral questions are designed to figure out how an individual would act or how they think they would act in a situation with moral weight and consequences. This will show you what they value and why. You can see examples of what organizations like Zappos use when hiring if you’re looking for more examples.

Core values can help you to determine if a candidate is a good fit for your organization based on what they believe in and what drives them. However, it shouldn’t be your final decision-making point. You also need a good understanding of what your organization’s core values are before you can use values as a hiring point.


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