Cultural Fit Job Interview Questions
For employers, finding candidates who fit the company culture is essential. Those candidates who fit the company culture share the same values and are more likely to thrive in the work environment. During a job interview, it’s almost certain that you will encounter interview questions about cultural fit.
Every company has a culture that is a reflection of the mission, values, beliefs, and attitudes of its employees at all different levels. The company’s culture is formed by how people interact and communicate, how they make decisions, and how they organize their day-to-day schedules. The culture of a company can influence several things such as shaping its policies and the role employees play in the company. It’s important to realize that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ company culture. Some work environments will fit you better than others. It’s up to you to figure out what type of environment you thrive in.
During a job interview, the interviewer is trying to figure out whether or not you got the qualities to be successful at the job that you’re applying for. Cultural fit might just be the most important thing that interviewers want to assess. This is because candidates who share important qualities with the company and their employees tend to perform better at work and stay longer. You can imagine that employers value workers who are productive and stay with them for a longer period of time. It’s therefore important that you are able to answer questions that regard cultural fit and how you align with the company culture and core values. Interviewers are looking for candidates who can demonstrate through examples that they are the right fit for the job.
Behavioral cultural fit interview questions
Interview questions that require you to provide an example work situation from the past are called ‘behavioral job interview questions.’ These questions focus on how exactly you handled these work situations. The way you respond to questions about adaptability tell the interviewer more about your work methods, flexibility, and work values.
In this article, we discuss why the interviewer is interested in how you fit within the company, questions you can expect and how you should answer interview questions about cultural fit. Also, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.
Why the interviewer asks cultural fit questions
Job interview questions about cultural fit are used to filter out the candidates whose beliefs, values, and professional behavior match the ones of the hiring organization. As stated earlier, employees who fit the company culture can have a significant impact on the success of the company. Therefore, employers want to hire the candidate who, in addition to the required qualifications and skills, fits the company culture best.
Employees who feel a level of affinity with their managers and colleagues are more likely to find meaning in their work and sense the feeling that like they belong where they are. In short, employers want to hire candidates for culture fit as they are more likely to thrive in their work environment. This is also the reason why interviewers will always ask you a set of cultural fit related interview questions to figure out if you’re culturally a good fit for their company. These questions are asked regardless of the position that a company is looking to fill.
The interviewer is interested in the type of work environment in which you can really give your best and where you are most productive. Through these interview questions, they want to find out how you react in certain work situations.
Think of questions such as:
- ‘Describe a situation where you disagreed with the ideas of a colleague. What did you do?’
- ‘Do you prefer to work as part of a team or alone? Can you explain why?’
As you can see, these questions require you to elaborate on certain specifics on how you handled situations or your work preferences. Based on such questions and the answer you give the interviewer can see if you are the right match for the company culture. During a job interview, you will probably get asked several of these behavioral questions.
Behavioral job interview questions usually start with:
- Describe situations where
- Give me an example of
- Have you ever
- Tell me about a time when you
- What do you do when
Based on the job description and the research you do on the company, you can figure out what kind of questions you can expect and what the company culture is like. This is also the reason that you should prepare your examples prior to the interview. Ensure that you provide the interviewer the situation you were in, your task in that situation, the action you took, and the specific results that can come out of those actions. In short, this is called the STAR-method of providing an answer. The STAR method is discussed in more detail later on in this article.
What the interviewer wants to know about your cultural fit
It can be challenging for interviewers to figure out if a candidate is a good cultural fit for a company. So, how do employers gauge whether or not a person would be the right cultural fit for their company? They do this through cultural interview questions that help them learn about the behaviors, values, beliefs, and attitudes of candidates. These questions are open-ended and require you to describe a situation from your past work experience. Usually, there is no wrong or right answer to these questions as they are used to get to know you better as a person.
For interviewers, four different areas are worth exploring during a job interview to figure out if a candidate fits the company culture.
Interview questions about your personality give the interviewer insights into your qualities and preferences. Think of interview questions such as:
- What situations do you consider stressful, and how do you cope with it?
- Do you prefer to delegate tasks, or do you prefer to have them delegated to you? Why?
- How would you describe your dream job?
- Tell me about a quality you possess that others do not always appreciate
Previous work experience
Questions about your previous work experience can help the interviewer gauge in what environments you thrive. They are interested in your perception of other company cultures that you have been part of and how your experience was. Example questions regarding previous work experience:
- Tell me about the company culture at your previous company
- Tell me about a time you took on a challenging project. What was the outcome?
- Were you comfortable with the company culture at your previous company? Why or why not?
- Did you fit in with the company culture at your previous employer?
Company culture preferences
These questions are meant to let you reveal more about your values, beliefs, and attitude towards work. Example questions are:
- What do you think are the most important things a company should do to boost morale?
- Tell me about what you think is an ideal company culture for you
- What type of work environment do you prefer to work in?
- How do you evaluate success?
- How do you deal with different personalities in the workplace?
For most companies, the best results are achieved when people work together and support each other. Questions on teamwork will help the interviewer identify whether or not you perform better on a team or when you’re working alone. Example questions are:
- Do you prefer to work as part of a team or alone? Or do you prefer a mix of both?
- Tell me how you deal with different personalities within the workplace
- Say you’re busy with your own responsibilities and a coworker comes and asks you for help. How do you respond?
- Tell me about a team experience that you found rewarding
- What role have you played in team situations?
- How do you feel about working in a team environment?
Motivation and commitment
Employers are looking for candidates who are able to provide the work that’s needed to be done in that particular position. By asking questions about your motivation and commitment, interviewers try to find out how motivated you are to perform well for their company. Think of questions such as:
- What excites you about this job opportunity?
- If you get the job, what do you plan on accomplishing in your first year?
- If you had to choose, do you think it’s more important do work fast or to get the job done the right way?
- What motivates you to come to work every day?
- Have you ever been a part of an unmotivated team? What did you do to stay motivated?
- Tell me about a time you recognized that you were not going to be able to meet multiple deadlines. What did you do about it, and what was the outcome?
Ambitious and passionate employees are more valuable to employers because a productive company culture consists of people who really love what they do. By asking interview questions about your passion and ambition, the interviewer is trying to gauge how you are likely to perform on the job. Think of questions such as:
- What professional achievement are you most proud of?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What are your long-term career goals?
- How would you describe your dream job?
Positivity in the work environment is brought my employees who are open-minded, kind, and also considerate of other people’s feelings and thoughts. Therefore, empathy is important in various jobs but especially in customer-facing positions. Example questions are:
- How is your relationship with your colleagues from your previous job?
- How do you take criticism?
- Is a customer always right?
- What do you think will make you successful in this position?
Integrity, accountability, and honesty
Integrity is a fundamental value that employees look for in employees. Furthermore, it’s the basis on which colleagues build relationships. Also, taking ownership and responsibility is one of the most important traits an employee can possess. An example of the questions you can expect are:
- Tell me about a time when despite careful planning, a project did not reach its set deadline. What did you do?
- Describe a time when your manager was absent, and you had to make an important decision.
- Can you tell me about a time your performance did not live up to your expectations? How did you handle this?
- What steps did you take to develop yourself to become more effective in your team?
- Tell me about a time you struggled with an assignment and how you overcame it
- From what professional mistake have you learned the most from?
Red flags for the interviewer
- If your answers or example situations indicate that your behaviors, values, beliefs, and attitudes do not align with the aspects of the job as well as the company, this can be a dealbreaker.
- A lack of interest and knowledge of the position is a red flag for an interviewer. You need to demonstrate through examples that you fit the company culture and that you support coworkers, value customers/clients, take ownership, and feel responsible for the general success of the company.
- Not being honest in your answers and simply trying to impress is a red flag for interviewers. Do your research right prior to the interview and give honest answers on why you feel like you’re a great cultural fit.
- If you’re applying for a management position, you need to demonstrate that you match their leadership style. If you show that your management style does not align with the one of the company, this can be a red flag. Therefore, in your preparation, make sure that you figure out how the company and its teams work.
Frequently asked job interview questions about cultural fit
These are commonly asked interview questions about cultural fit:
- Why do you want to work here?
- What do you hope to achieve in the first year on the job?
- Tell me about a time when you were asked to perform a task you’ve never done before and how you overcame it.
- Your manager assigns you an important task that needs to be finished with the day. How do you reply?
- What does your decision-making process look like?
- Describe to me your ideal work environment.
- Tell me about a challenging situation you have faced and how you handled it.
- How could a supervisor best support you?
- What is your opinion on working late or taking work home with you? Is this good practice, in your opinion?
- Do you rather work alone or with a team?
- How do you like to be managed?
- Tell me about a time you solved a problem at work. What was the issue, and how did you approach it?
- How do you handle disappointments?
- Tell me about a time you missed a deadline.
- What does a successful company culture look like to you?
- Tell me about the best job you have in your career
- Are you still in touch with any previous coworkers?
- How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
- Tell me about how you feel about the companies that you have worked for previously
- Name three things that you like most about our company
- Give me an example of a time when you went out of your way to help a customer
- What does your ideal workday look like?
- What appeals most to you about this position?
How to answer cultural fit job interview questions
There are a couple of things you should focus on when you answer interview questions about culture fit. Make sure to include (some of) the following elements in your answers:
- Use examples in your answers the relate to the company culture. This might sound logical, but putting a focus on what the company is looking for can give your answers that extra weight to it. For instance, if exceptional customer service is a core value of the company, demonstrate through examples that you have experience with going above and beyond for a customer.
- Show through example situations that you can add value to the team and company. You can do this by carefully analyzing the job description and matching your qualifications to the job requirements.
- Show that you can adjust your activities and attitude in order to work as effectively as possible in the work environment.
- Demonstrate flexibility. Show that you are willing to try new approaches to changing situations and environments. If possible, give an example of how you did so in the past.
- Positivity is key. Show that you’re excited about the opportunity and explain why you look forward to working for such a company.
Structuring answers to cultural fit job interview questions
Below you can find a step-by-step list on how you can prepare solid answers to culture fit questions. Structuring answers before the interview can help you prepare better because you can come up with scenario’s easier when certain questions are asked. However, make sure that you come across naturally when answering questions, avoid fully reciting answers because the interviewer will notice.
- When the interviewer asks you a behavioral interview question, make sure to answer in the form of a logically structured story. Include specific elements that relate to the job requirements and the values of the company.
- Explain the challenges you were facing and how you approached the situation. Also, discuss the specific actions you took and what the outcome of your actions was.
- The easiest and most logical way of structuring your answer is by using the STAR interview technique. STAR is an acronym that stands for a situation (S), your task (T) in that situation, the actions (A) you took, and what results (R) you got based on your actions. Further on in this article, the STAR technique is described in more detail.
- Display the skills and abilities that are needed for the job you’re applying for. In other words, make sure you match your qualifications to the job and skills, as mentioned in the job description.
- Give honest and genuine answers because interviewers are more than likely to find out if you’re just trying to impress them. Also, they will ask follow-up questions to go more in-depth into the situation you provide them with to assess your skills.
STAR Interview Technique for Cultural Fit Interview Questions
Job interview questions about your behavior in the workplace are best answered by providing example situations according to the STAR method. This way, you can give interviewers exactly what they are looking for. Also, you can use this as an opportunity to provide a concise and to the point answer about how you behaved in previous work situations. Below the STAR acronym is broken down into each step.
When you give your answer to the interviewer, start by setting the stage. Provide context around the situation or challenge you were facing. Don’t forget to provide relevant details.
Secondly, talk about your specific responsibilities and what your role was. It’s important that the interviewer gets an understanding of your task.
After describing your task, talk about the actions you took to resolve the challenges you were facing. Provide the interviewer with a step by step description of what actions you took.
Talk about the outcomes of your actions. Make sure to take credit for your behavior that led to the result. Here you answer questions such as What happened? What did you accomplish? Also, provide the interviewer with information about what you learned from the situation. Make sure to focus on positive results and positive learning experiences.
Sample answers to discuss cultural fit questions
Below you will find some example answers to questions about your cultural fit. Questions that require you to provide example scenario’s, the so-called behavioral interview questions, are already written in STAR format so that you can see how you can logically structure your answers. However, the answers below are ‘general’ examples. Do not forget to structure your own answers in a way that includes enough detail to convince the interviewer that you’re the right person for the job!
Cultural Fit Example 1: ‘Why do you want to work here?’
First, we discuss the cultural fit question ‘Why do you want to work here?’ There are several ways to answer this question. You can, for instance, include the reputation of the products of the company or their reputation as an employer. Think of answers such as:
‘I believe in a collaborative approach to projects, and when I discovered this opportunity to join the product marketing team, I knew I had to apply. I have used your products for years, and I am very impressed with the innovations and consistent concern for helping your customers learn how to use them effectively. Teamwork environments always inspired me, and my background in sales and marketing has prepared me in the best way possible for this position. I would love to be a part of this innovative team and as an experienced marketer with an emphasis on tech products, I know I can add a lot of value to the team.’
Why is this a strong answer?
- This answer shows that you have knowledge of the company and its products. In other words, you have done your research, and you’re familiar with using their products as well.
- The answer relates personal values and previous work experience to the job position that you’re applying for.
- The answer is convincing and logically structured. In a short and concise way, it demonstrates why you want to work there but also why your experience makes you the right person for the job.
Cultural Fit Example 2: ‘What appeals most to you about this position?’
Secondly, we discuss the cultural fit question ‘What appeals most to you about this position?’
‘I read an article on Bloomberg.com about how your new CEO Jack Johnson is working on implementing a new technology innovation plan. Your company always has been known to put a strong focus on innovation, and I would love to be part of an organization that’s continuously striving to maintain its position as a leader in the market. This position would be a great fit for me, and a competitive team environment is a great place for me to apply my skills and to develop myself. The position matches my experience, and it would also allow me to take on greater responsibilities as well. Furthermore, your training and development programs sound very attractive to me to progress my career and knowledge-levels even further.’
Why is this a strong answer?
- This answer shows not only that you have knowledge of the company; it also demonstrates that you’re aware of the most recent developments. This will show that you’re well-prepared and really interested in the position.
- The answer indicates what appeals most to you about this position by mentioning specific details such as teamwork, training & development, and greater responsibilities. Also, complementing a company on its market position and achievements is a good idea but don’t go too far with it to a point where it’s too much.
- The answer relates your experience to the job position that you’re applying for.
- In general, this answer demonstrates what appeals to you about the company and the position, and why you’re the right person for the job.
Cultural Fit Example 3: ‘Do you rather work alone or with a team?’
Third, we discuss the cultural fit question ‘Do you rather work alone or with a team?’ Now this question can be tricky and should be tailored to the position that you’re applying for. If you’re applying for a position that requires intensive teamwork, focus your answer towards collaborating with others. If the job requires a lot of individual work, focus your answer towards taking your responsibility on your individual tasks. Below an example is given of an answer that values both teamwork and individual work.
‘My eight years of experience in different sales positions made me comfortable working within a team as well as working alone. A lot of sales meetings are one-on-one with clients who are good to discuss details discretely, but I definitely understand the value of teamwork too. Creative sessions within our sales teams really benefited my approach to sales strategy, setting targets, and general best practices. Also, having a team behind you can create greater confidence among the team members because there’s always someone that can advise you in certain situations.’
Why is this a strong answer?
- This answer demonstrates that you understand the value of both working alone and working on a team and that you gained this knowledge through experience.
- The answer shows that you’re flexible and that you can adapt to situations which is essential in the workplace.
- The answer relates personal values and previous work experience to the job position that you’re applying for.
- In a short and concise way, the answer demonstrates why you want to work there but also why your experience makes you the right person for the job. The answer is convincing and logically structured.
STAR-Method Example 1: ‘What’s your approach to delegating tasks to employees, and how did you successfully do this in the past?’
‘What’s your approach to delegating tasks to employees, and how did you successfully do this in the past?’ When answering this question, you should take the position you’re applying for into account. Make sure that you’re management and leadership style align with those of the hiring organization. This way, you can demonstrate that you possess the right skills to successfully lead or manage a team.
‘In my previous position, I was in charge of the sales department and was responsible for several smaller teams. At a certain time, we were invited to pitch to a new client for a long-term contract. As I was responsible for the success of this pitch, I understood that there was no room for error.
I composed a team of the most experienced employees and selected them based on their individual qualities and strengths to make sure to balance the team out. Together with the team, we made a planning and set goals and milestones to work on the pitch. After that, I delegated tasks based on the knowledge and experience levels of each team member. Also, I appointed a project manager to monitor the progress on a day to day basis and report to me on the milestone progress.
Because I distributed the responsibilities according to experience and knowledge levels, everyone on the team understood their responsibilities and the importance of the project. The team delivered everything on time without requiring intense oversight. We finished our pitch ahead of schedule and were able to provide the client with everything he asked for. The client told us that he was impressed by our efforts, and we landed the contract. This was a great achievement for the team as it was an effort that could not have been made without the people on it.’
Why is this a strong answer?
- This answer shows multiple important elements, such as teamwork, leadership, creativity, and adaptability.
- It’s a logically structured answer according to the STAR method. Furthermore, it demonstrates your delegation skills.
- The answer shows self-awareness but also great leadership by including your team and their efforts in the overall performance.
- In a short and concise way, the answer shows how you delegate tasks to team members and based on what you made certain decisions.
STAR-Method Example 2: ‘How do you handle conflicts in the workplace?’
Secondly, we discuss the behavioral cultural fit question ‘How do you handle conflicts in the workplace?’ Your answer to this question gives the interviewer information on how you approach and solve conflict situations.
‘My experience with conflict situations taught me that it’s always good to try to see things from the other person’s perspective and to approach the situation open-minded. By understanding the other person’s perspective, you get a better feeling of how they really feel about things. This, in turn, gives you the opportunity to talk about how to reconcile different positions. This approach makes the situation less personal, which is a good way to start working from.
One time, in my previous position, a discussion started within the team about the budgets that needed to be allocated for the next quarter. The argument was about where to allocate the budgets in terms of teams and departments. Basically, the team split up in two sides, and both sides thought they were right and really believed their priorities were correct. As it often goes during a discussion, the articulation and substantiation on why their priorities were that way, was not clear. Both teams made assumptions on the reasons behind each other’s decisions. I tried to mediate the differences by asking specific questions to both sides to understand where they were coming from. Within 20 minutes, both teams were able to remove a great deal of the tension and started working on a constructive solution because they understood each other’s logic behind their choices.’
Why is this a strong answer?
- This answer directly addresses the question of how you handle conflicts by demonstrating your views and how you handled such a situation in the past.
- The answer relates personal values and previous work experience to the job position that you’re currently applying for.
- The answer is convincing and logically structured. In a short and concise way, it demonstrates how you approach situations and how you solve conflicts.