Like most people, my values have changed quite slowly during my life. I can identify a few distinct places where values shifted – like when I graduated from college – but it’s not common.

As I’ve aged, I’ve become clearer about what my values are – but it’s more about learning who I am, not becoming a different person.

When you’re looking to hire great people, this is a critical observation.

Especially if you’re building a company (or any organization) based on a powerful purpose, you’re going to be sensitive to whether your employees are truly aligned with their values.

That doesn’t mean they’re all identical – that would really damage the diversity you want. But they need to be aligned enough that you’re not creating unacceptable anxiety for you or your people.

And this really needs to be you primary criteria for hiring. Skills can be learned. But values are probably going to be stable for decades.

Let’s take an example: As a generous and giving business, you need to have your people buy into the philosophy of putting the team ahead of themselves. You can put it in your mission statement, you can even reward people for exemplary teamwork. That helps.

But that one guy who doesn’t share information is always going to feel like a misfit. His team members are going to resent that “he just doesn’t understand how we do things around here” and your business results are likely going to suffer.

Eventually you realize you shouldn’t have hired him in the first place. Yes, you can help adjust his behaviors with lots of one-on-one attention and coaching. But without some kind of extreme wake up call, he’s never really going to understand the principle. Even if he becomes more compliant.

It turns out that hiring people who hold this value isn’t that difficult. You have to go beyond their resume or CV, though, and ask questions like:

  • Can you give me an example of where you’ve put the team’s results ahead of your own contribution?
  • How have you handled team members who don’t seem to be pulling their weight?

These open-ended questions can create a wonderful insight into someone’s way of thinking. Make sure that it’s based on experience and evidence, and the “right” answer isn’t obvious.

And that you’re testing for the values you really do have in your organization – not an unrealistic ideal.