Assessing for connection to purpose and mission

The Quick Question Series asks industry leaders from your favorite brands to share insights into the most-asked questions about recruiting the right talent, finding the right job or, sometimes, a little bit of both.

In this segment we asked, “How do you assess for connection to purpose and mission? What questions do you ask and what are you listening for?”

We love learning from our clients and friends of the firm and appreciate their willingness to share their nuggets of wisdom. A HUGE thank you to all our participants!

Jonci Cukier


I ask them what their purpose in life is (This question knocks everybody’s socks off). I try to share what the company’s about before I ask that question so it’s not coming off cold. I’ll ask what they know about the company, and then I find out if they know about our sustainability, our work with women and girls, our focus on our renew program. They’ll give me tidbits of how much research they’ve done before the interview and what’s stuck with them.

It just gives me a sense into who they are. And I have hired people that I’ve been on the fence about because of their answer around what their life purpose is.

Oftentimes, in an interview, we share our 6 values so a question might be:

Which one of these values do you resonate with the most, and why?
What do you value deeply? How are these values reflected in your work?
As you look around the world today, what are the areas in need of the greatest change, and how might you see yourself playing a role in this change?

I think there’s prep that’s needed around matching the skills as well as purpose. In certain cases, giving up culture for skill might be necessary when a company really needs a specific skill set. When you have identified that the person coming in may not be in sync with your purpose or your mission, then you need to work closely with them, and onboarding becomes that much more important.

Gabe Kleinman

Director of Portfolio Services & Marketing for Obvious Ventures

Candidates can say anything about the type of company that they want to work for, and different people have different motivations for wanting to work for purpose-driven companies. But the level of connection can differ significantly from candidate to candidate. Sometimes it’s authentic … they see a direct connection between the work that they have done in the past, and how they want to move the world forward through the work they want to do in the future. On the other hand, if … you dive deeper into the types of companies or operations and ask for examples and they can’t provide any, that sends a signal too.

The “why” question really zeroes into the heart of the matter. … Just asking why, why, why. It’s helpful as much for the people conducting the interview as it is for the person interviewing. It’s a deeply reflective line of questioning that can help them think through what they’re doing in that seat.

To evaluate for a purpose-driven profile, I think it’s also helpful to observe how they act in the process. How are they showing up with support staff? Are they kind, and do they treat them like humans, or are they more dismissive? What gratitude are they expressing in the process? Are they writing thank you notes? Are they demonstrating real human connection in the process?

David Kahl

Founder & CEO for Fully, Chairman of the Board for B Local PDX

I ask questions like, “What’s important to you?” and listen for how they talk about those things. Rather than looking for a specific answer, it opens a conversation to things that they’re passionate about. If someone’s really moved by a deeper purpose of what they want to do, it will be evident in the entire way they’re communicating. Paying close attention to their non-verbal communication, looking them in the eye while they’re speaking, and noticing how their entire being is responding to the question is a great litmus test. It’s really hard to fake it.

We do our best to articulate our mission and values, not only in the interview process, but in the onboarding process as well. We have an entire training on our core values, and it allows people to recognize how our corporate values intersect with their own set of values. That way they can bring all of themselves to work, and our company can get the full splendor of every employee.

Seungah Jeong

President & CEO for MPOWERD

We always ask prospective hires, “You could work anywhere, because you have this incredible skillset. What about MPOWERD really attracted you to this opportunity?” And we look for them to voluntarily come up with the fact that we’re a mission-driven company, that we impact lives, that we impact environment. And 9 out of 10 prospective hires naturally gravitate towards that answer if they’re the right fit.

We also ask some stress-test type questions to understand whether an individual has experienced any challenges. I look for how they can pivot, how they handle the challenges they’ve faced. It’s not so much the challenges themselves, as what they view as a challenge … whenever I ask questions like that, I get deeper stories.

John Salzinger

Founder, Inventor and Chief Business Development Officer for MPOWERD

We focus first and primarily on a person’s skillset, their capability, their experience for the role that they’re being hired for. At the end of the day we’re a business, sometimes people think we are only a mission-based organization, an NGO or a non-profit. We’re a B Corp and a benefit corporation, we’re a social impact company, we’re a for purpose company, but we are a corporation. We have board members; we have shareholders and we have stakeholders. At the same time, we are trying to change the world, so it takes a lot of heavy lifting, work, dedication, and resilience. We take challenges and turn them into opportunities day after day. That is what we look for in the process.

In summary, a candidate’s values and a connection to purpose compliment their experience and signal of how strongly they will fit and thrive within an organization. If you’re looking for advice assessing for connection to purpose and mission, please schedule a conversation.