More than Happy Hour: Culture Fit in the Workplace

The most successful teams tend to be composed of diverse individuals who all support and challenge one another to grow: Ocean’s Eleven, Germany’s football team in the 2014 World Cup, or even BTS. When each individual within a team brings their own expertise to the table and manages to successfully collaborate with their partners, they portray the positive effects of finding a “good culture fit.”

When you’re evaluated as a good culture fit, it means that your behavior and professional philosophies align with the employer’s values and interprofessional dynamics. Companies are not only looking for the right technical skills, but also searching for people who fit in, and even more so, add to their teams.

Is the company all about Marvel Mondays or Hawaiian Shirt Fridays? Does your team make bets on March Madness games? Or, does everyone keep to themselves? There’s no right or wrong answer, but it may make the difference between an environment that someone just survives in versus one that person thrives in. Employees who match the company’s personality are more likely to be satisfied with their job.

Culture fit interview questions aim to understand the candidates’ core values and personalities in the context of the open position. These questions come in all shapes and sizes (just like us) and there’s (usually) no right or wrong answer. Below is a sample of questions to think over:

Why do you want to work here?

While this may seem like a routine and standard first question to ask, you would be surprised by the intricacies of its assessment. Hiring managers can learn which candidates have done their research and which ones have not. They will listen and judge your reasoning.

Are they all reasons for why you don’t want to continue working with your current employer? Candidates who focus purely on the negatives of their current workplace do not answer this question well. It actually makes you look like the problem.

It’s important that you answer this question with reasons as to why both parties would benefit: How would you benefit in working at this company and what would the company gain in return?

Do you prefer working on your own, or with a team?

All roles require working with other people, though some roles require more independent and remote work than others. Mention your preference, but also take time to explain that you’re flexible working both independently and on a team.

woman doing computer work

What was your biggest failure and how did you overcome it?

Questions about your greatest failure are geared to understand your resilience, self-awareness, and vulnerability. Take your time in setting the scene, moment of adversity, and thought process, including how you personally grew from this experience. Everyone has failed at something, so you are not and do not need to be perfect. What sets you apart is how you’ve integrated lessons from each failure into your work and life. Attempt to couple your story with the company’s core values.

What management style motivates you to do your best work?

Every leader has a different style of motivating their team and every individual is not motivated by the same methods. Are you motivated by developing others, improving processes, or creating from scratch? Regardless of the answer, demonstrate self-awareness.

Describe a time when something really unfair happened at work and how you handled it.

Did a coworker throw you under the bus in front of a client? Did your boss give you a big project right before you went on vacation? What are your true values? Is it your integrity, reputation, and/or family?

More than likely, the hiring manager will attempt to dig deeper to understand your perception of personal responsibility in contrast with your expectations of others. Additionally, he or she will want to know how you handled the situation. Did you express your concerns to the team/manager? Were you only concerned about yourself or the whole team? Be aware of making the situation purely about yourself. Hiring managers want to build a successful team where everyone will support one another and help each other grow.

Remember to take some time before your interview to prepare for these culture fit questions, as well as some others that you might come across and check out our post 7 Tips for Answering Interview Questions. Good luck!

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