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Five Steps to Success in Culture Fit Interviews

The culture fit interview is common across many sectors and pretty much any job interview will come with sprinkling of fit questions complimenting more technical content.

Indeed, the same questions notoriously come up again and again. “What is your greatest weakness?” “Where do you plan to be in five years?” “Describe an occasion where you solved a problem.”

Despite their ubiquity, though, candidates habitually underestimate these kinds of fit questions. Often, there is an impression that answers don’t require much thought and it is more a matter of not saying something stupid than coming up with a genuinely decent response.

However, this impression is far from the truth – which is that firms genuinely care about your answers and, for many roles, will take them every bit as seriously as your technical competence.

If you are looking around for advice on fit questions, you are already ahead of the game and you have made a great start by finding this article.

Here, we will give you five key steps to putting together and delivering the kind of fit interview performance required to land a really great job. Specifically, these steps will be:

Do Your Homework
Match Yourself to the Role
Prepare Your Answers

However, before all that, let’s make sure that we have the basics in place by understanding why interviewers ask these kinds of questions in the first place.

“Step Zero”: Understand What You are Facing

“Culture fit” questions and interviews are just that – they are supposed to assess how you will fit in with the workplace you are hoping to join.

As noted above, there is a temptation to regard these as somehow unimportant – perhaps to think that these questions are really just a nicety or a formality as compared to other “harder” aspects of selection; such as screening tests or case interviews.

However, the reason the same fit interviews questions come up again and again is that companies take the answers seriously. Some major reasons for this concern are as follows:

Staff retention – Employers want to make sure you stick around. Specifically, they want to know:

*  Do you know what you are getting into, do you have the determination to stick it out?

*  Do you really intend to stay with them in the long term, or are you just using them as a stepping stone?

Soft/Interpersonal skills – Firms need to make sure that you have the social skills required to get along with clients and co-workers.

Testing if you have done your homework – As we will see, giving decent answers proves that you have bothered to research the company and consider what specifically you can offer.

Being a team player – This isn’t just management speak but is closely related to the soft skills above. In short, nobody wants to hire someone who is horrible to work with.

Step One: Do Your Homework

If you want to give genuinely unique, compelling answers to fit questions, you are going to need to do some serious research. Indeed, this research should really have started when you were writing your resume and cover letter, but we’ll assume you have already gotten past that stage.

To get started, you should learn all you can about:

The company
The specific office you are applying to
Recent successful projects
What the day-to-day work is like in your target role
How your role interacts with others
What the working hours, conditions, perks and downsides are like

Of course, it’s often the case that the PR-driven material on the website talking about great work-life balance and illustrated with smiling, stress-free workers, doesn’t bear much resemblance to a gruelling job.

It is your job to find out what the job is really like. Digging through websites like Glassdoor will help, but the best way to get the inside track is networking.

Step Two: Network

The very best performances in case interviews will be underpinned by substantial networking. Networking can be essential to getting an interview in the first place, as some firms will place a lot of stock on referrals.

However, the utility of networking does not end at landing interviews.

As alluded to above, networking is also an extension of your research on the company. Speaking to current or recent employees at your target office will give you a clear and realistic impression of what working there is really like – and thus what interviewers will be looking for.

Step Three: Match Yourself to the Role

Now we put all this information from research and networking to use. The crucial goal here is to work out what exactly the role you are applying for requires in terms of personality, skills and capabilities and then match these up to your own character and abilities.

This process will have begun when you yourself first started figuring out which jobs you should apply to and will have continued when you wrote your covering letter.

Note that it is not enough simply to claim you have the relevant traits, but that you should be able to give strong evidence where you have proven them. This means finding past achievements from either your professional or personal life where you demonstrate each.

Step Four: Prepare Your Answers

So, now you have the content of what you want to say in your answers – next you need to figure out how to say it. Even if you are perfectly suitable for a job, you need to be able to convey this effectively if your interviewer is going to understand why they should hire you.

It’s worth remembering here that fit questions also act as a test of your communication skills and how adept you are at selling yourself.

Telling Good Stories in Fit Interviews

In particular, a lot of fit questions are going to require you to tell stories. “Tell us about a time you demonstrated personal impact” and similar questions obviously necessitate you come up with a narrative.

Now, the stories you tell in an interview should be delivered in a very different style to those you tell at the bar or over dinner.

Interview stories should be clear and concise, with minimal extraneous detail. One commonly-recommended method is the STAR framework:

S – Situation – Quickly give details of the context
T – Task – State what you had to get done
A – Actions – Explain what you did to meet and ideally exceed your goals
R – Result – Note how this then fed back into changing the initial situation

Step Five: Practice

Get started early and practice as much as you can. If you really want to land a job and you have already put in all the work in research and networking, this isn’t the time to rest on your laurels.

It is important that you don’t just practice alone. Get a friend to ask you questions as well to better simulate the real interview.

Prepare for Unexpected Fit Questions

Importantly, make sure you don’t just get your friends to read out a few questions you have already prepared for. Get them to make up some questions as well.

Also, make sure your friends then ask follow up questions to drill down on at least some of your answers. Some interviewers will test you by deep-diving on one specific story, getting you to explain things in great detail. You need to make sure that you can answer all these follow-ups without getting lost or losing your composure.

Note that this is a very good reason why you should only give TRUE answers. If you’re telling the truth, you won’t end up running into trouble when you have to expand on how exactly things happened. Good Luck!

A lot of the work you put in to generate compelling answers to fit interview questions is the same due diligence you should be doing to make sure that you will be happy in a new job. With this advice, we hope that you find and then land a job that you are truly a good fit for – convincing your interviewer en route!