You’ve likely heard it before: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Druker’s famous line rings true for just about every organization that exists–even more so for mission-driven institutions. It is crucial to establish and maintain a healthy organizational culture in order to accomplish your particular mission. Of course, there is no shortage of authors out there who can help you navigate doing this. No need for me to take a deep dive into organizational culture right now, because many wiser than I have done a fabulous job of it.

What I do want to offer is a few quick thoughts on how you can identify the right people who will fit your institutional culture at any level in the organization – from volunteers to board members. No matter what position you are recruiting for, culture fit is essential. The interview process is the optimal time for beginning to figure out if a person will thrive in your institution.

There are dozens of questions you can ask in an interview to gauge culture fit, but here are five of my favorites.

1. How will your work contribute to our institution’s mission?

This should be a no-brainer for mission-driven Christian institutions. Your mission is what drives your strategy and operations. You need everyone on your team rowing in the same direction when it comes to fulfilling your mission. Asking this question gives you insight into two things: One, do they know your mission? They should if they are interested in joining your work. Two, can they see themselves contributing to that mission? Mission fit goes hand-in-hand with culture fit.

2. Describe your leadership practices.

I use the word “practices” very intentionally when posing this thought. Most people can describe their “leadership style,” but I want to know what their leadership looks like operationally. Every single person at your institution is charged with practicing their leadership and influence. You need to know how someone will fit in that space and if they can lead well while contributing to the mission.

3. Name your top three passions in life.

You know your people and what makes them passionate about working at your institution. Make sure you know what a potential candidate is passionate about. Will their passions align with those already serving at the institution? Will they find like minded colleagues who are passionate about the same things?

4. How does the narrative of the Gospel influence your work and daily life?

This is an “ask always” question for me, but it also gives insight to culture fit. You certainly want team members who are committed to fulfilling your institution’s mission, but more importantly, you want people who are devoted to building Christ’s kingdom through their work. Assuming you have built a team culture that prioritizes this kind of work, you want to make sure you are inviting new colleagues into joining this common vision.

5. What are you currently reading?

It is always helpful to know who the influential voices are in someone’s life. It will be very insightful to know what books and podcasts are shaping a person’s work and life. Will these influences align with your cultural values? Will they resonate with other team members? It also lets you know if the person is actually currently reading something–which they should be.

Whether you are hiring a part-time coach, a library aide, or a new Head of School, culture fit matters immensely. Make sure you are paying close attention to how a potential new team member will fit your institutional culture. It will make all the difference.

Brian Jensen is a Senior Executive Search Consultant at Vanderbloemen, an executive search firm that helps churches, schools, and faith-based organizations by providing resources and consultations for executive search, hiring, compensation, succession, and culture. Brian’s passion for Christian education developed while working at North Central University in its Student Life division, where he realized his love for working with students and the transformative experience that a faith-based institution could have on their lives. Prior to joining Vanderbloemen, he served at Geneva College as the Vice President of Student Development where he provided executive leadership for student programs, services, and athletics. Through his experience and leadership, Brian brings expertise in organizational culture, leadership development, personnel development and team dynamics, and educational management. He is passionate about helping Christian organizations accomplish their mission as they seek to further Christ’s kingdom. Working with clients around the globe, Brian is energized by the work he gets to do every day. For more great resources, visit