How Culture Impacts the Recruiting Process featuring The Mustard Seed Project

This week we caught up with Marlo Ramirez, Creator and Owner of The Mustard Seed Project, a company that offers “belief-based career coaching that helps you figure out and determine your beliefs to unlock your true potential and find a job that aligns to who you are at your core”. Marlo is the former Director of Talent for the cannabis brand Canndescent, and besides her start-up experience has also worked in talent acquisition for large corporations like Taco Bell and The 99 Cent stores. We spoke with Marlo to get her insight on when a company should begin to develop their culture and how it impacts the recruiting process.

Marlo Ramirez, Owner of The Mustard Seed Project

You have worked at large corporations outside the cannabis industry as well as start-up companies inside the industry. What differences did you notice in terms of company culture? What are the biggest challenges with implementing culture in either environment? 

What I have noticed is that culture starts with leadership. It actually doesn’t matter if you are at a start-up or a well-established brand or company, it all stems from solid leadership practices that are actually practiced by senior leaders. When you see a well-established company culture, that means that the executives are living out the values, and they are also invested in growing their people while also providing them a level of autonomy and trust. Well-established company culture never micromanages their people. 

I would say if you are a start-up and setting up your culture, mission, vision, and value, you have to start with, “What does the company believe in?” Define what those beliefs are, and provide a roadmap, as best as possible for how your employees will get there. One example I can give is if you are developing a high performing sales culture, you will want to establish baseline performance and not just baseline performance from a metrics standpoint. Do you tolerate and promote jerks? Do you believe in cultivating relationships with your clients? Is volume more important, or quality of clients? Do managers spend time training, or are you expected to hit the ground running with little to no support? Each belief or well-defined answer sets the trajectory for building a culture. 


At what point should you start developing company culture in terms of company growth? Is this something that should be established day one prior to hiring?

I believe culture is defined right away through intention or lack thereof. If a company wants to have a thriving culture, I believe that the company’s core beliefs should be defined prior to hiring, or as close to that as possible. You don’t have to be rigid and have all the details worked out, but you should know what you don’t want to be, and who would not be successful working for your company.

I believe if a company doesn’t take the time to define this, the actions, beliefs, and personal values will come to light in the executive leadership and those beliefs, actions, and personal values will end up being the company culture. Each Executive or senior leader may behave differently and that will create a lot of confusion and noise for your employees. 

What kind of questions do you ask to establish if a candidate is a culture fit?

Questions should stem from the culture. If the culture is performance-based but leads with relationship building you can ask something like:

“Tell me about a time you had to meet performance goals for the month, but your client was not calling you back or responding to emails, what did you do?”  If the answer is, “I called and called, and called, and then I sent them an angry email reminding them that they needed to order, or we would go to their competitor with our products and services.” A company that is relationship-focused would not find this answer to be aligned to the culture. On the other hand, if the candidate answered with, “That can be a challenge and it can happen from time to time, we all get busy. I would pick up the phone and give the client a call and leave them a voicemail. If I didn’t hear back, I would stop by with a light snack or lunch for the office to see my client in person. I would also ensure all my other clients had placed their orders so I wouldn’t have to rely on the order from this one client.”

I find that behavioral-based interview questions are a good way to determine cultural fit. These kinds of questions allow you to hear specific examples and give you an opportunity to ask probing questions. I also find that asking “what-if” questions are helpful as well, as long as you provide the candidate with a potential “real” situation they would solve if they got the job. This way you can start to understand how they are interpreting the company culture, and if they are exemplifying the culture in their answers to you. 

Team meet

As a candidate, what are some questions you can ask to have a true understanding of what the company culture is?

I like to ask questions like, “How is feedback structured at (name the company)?”

Also, “What do you feel about this position is most important? How does this role support the management and serve the culture at (name the company)?”

What is the most important thing you look for in a company as a candidate yourself, or when recommending opportunities to those you are coaching? 

I believe this is very personal to each candidate. I advise my clients to align their job search with a company that matches their personal beliefs and values. As humans, we always grow and evolve so what is important may change at each stage of life. If you really understand and know what you believe in, regardless of what stage of life you are in, you will find a company that is in alignment with your personal values.

Example: I believe in working for a company that uses sustainable methods, and packaging in its products. Ideally, you would look for companies that might be certified organic or don’t test on animals, maybe they have won green awards, and have a minimum environmental impact. That company would be aligned with your personal beliefs, and you would probably enjoy working there with people who hold similar beliefs and values. 

To learn more about The Mustard Seed project or to connect with Marlo directly, please visit For help with establishing your values and company culture, Job Descriptions, salary ranges, or any other recruiting needs, please reach out to

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