Fact: Workplace culture has a tangible impact on employees’ productivity, engagement, and job satisfaction rates.
Among US employees surveyed by Eagle Hill, over 75% agree that positive workplace culture helps them do their best work and serve the customer base better. Culturally aligned employees are also more engaged and less likely to quit their job. According to an EY survey, 92% of employees across all four workplace generations agree that culture impacts their decision to stay with an employer.
So no wonder that organizations are spending over $9,3 billion on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives per year, as well as implementing changes to the hiring process. In particular, culture fit interview questions have now become a given.
If you’re wondering how to best answer them, this guide is for you.
What Do Company Recruiters Look For in a Culture Fit Interview?
When conducting a culture fit interview, recruiters are looking for candidates who align with the company’s values, mission, and workplace practices. Many aren’t just looking for cultural fits, but also cultural add-ons — people who’d be able to contribute fresh ideas and new perspectives.
Most interview questions to assess culture fit are designed to identify candidates with:
- Positive work attitude
- Strong work ethics
- Good problem-solving skills
- Well-developed teamwork abilities
- Diverse perspectives
- Industry/target market knowledge
Ultimately, recruiters are looking for candidates who will not only have the required skillset but can also contribute to a positive and productive work environment.
6 Popular Culture Fit Interview Questions and Answers
Culture fit interviews usually follow a slightly different style than the standard ones. The manager will spend time painting a picture of how the organization runs and how the work gets done. Then, they may ask a set of leading questions to better understand your personality and attitudes toward existing workplace practices and management styles.
While the exact set of culture fit interview questions will differ depending on the organization, you’re likely to get probed with the variations of the following Qs:
1. How Would You Define a Positive Work Culture?
This usually comes as an ice-breaker question. The employer wants to hear your take on the ideal working conditions and workplace values you hold dear. Go along and share your vision. But be smart and mention some of the pillar practices this particular company has adopted.
“I believe a positive work culture is one that values and encourages open communication, teamwork, and mutual respect among employees. It’s a culture where everyone is encouraged to share their opinions and where everyone’s contributions are valued and credited. I’m also a fan of radical candor philosophy — and I’ve read this is something you practice as well at XYZ”.
2. What Makes You Excited About The Line of Work You Do?
It’s no secret that people who feel strongly about the role and/or industry they work for make up the best employees. So many interviewers will try to understand what drives your interest in the chosen field and then mentally model how your passion could be channeled into the right workplace activities.
When answering this culture interview question, give some background on why you originally joined this industry and what keeps you motivated to continue growing in it.
“I originally joined the FinTech industry because I was never personally good with money. My financial literacy didn’t go beyond saving and not accumulating too much debt, so I started researching various apps and resources that could help me learn more about money management. I also love this industry as it commoditized access to wealth management for people like myself — second-generation immigrants, who are just learning the ropes and can’t afford classical advisors. Now my mission is to help other 20-year-olds like myself develop better money habits.”
3. What Are You Passionate About Outside of Work?
Teamwork isn’t just cultivated at the workplace — it also builds up organically when employees team up for group activities, have fun during offsite events, and ultimately become friends.
By asking this question, the interviewer wants to get a glimpse into your personal interests and see if these would overlap or add to what other team members are already doing.
Again, there’s no right or wrong answer here. Just briefly talk about a mix of hobbies, volunteering, or community work you do.
“I’m a long-term yoga fan and sometimes teach free bi-weekly classes at the local community center for troubled youth. We’ve got quite a gang there, so come say hi sometime. Other than that, I’m more of a homebody, and spend a lot of time reading non-fiction or tendering my small herbs garden.”
4. How Do You Prefer to Be Managed?
Every workplace and team has slightly different management styles. Some have a more rigid, top-bottom hierarchy. Others live by the Agile practices of “two-pizza cross-functional teams” or democratic leadership.
With this question, the interviewer tries to understand which management style you prefer to see if this is something the company can accommodate.
“Since I’ve worked at a hybrid workplace for over 5 years, I really appreciate having autonomy and open communication. I appreciate clear expectations and goals/KPIs, stated up front, but also value the ability to bring my own ideas and problem-solving skills to the table. Regular check-ins and feedback are important to me to ensure that I am on track and to address any issues that may arise. I also appreciate a manager who is approachable and available for discussions and collaborations when needed”.
5. Can You Describe a Situation When You Had to Deal with a Disagreement Within the Team?
Culture fit interview questions are also aimed at assessing how you’ll interact with other teammates. You have to show your interpersonal skills and conflict-resolution strategies.
That said, you shouldn’t take the shortcut of stating that you’re rarely at the center of disagreement. This may create a wrong impression for two reasons:
- First, even if it’s true, it would likely sound like a meek co-opt
- Secondly, great employers understand that healthy tensions within teams help create the best ideas
Hence, your goal is to candidly talk about your strategy for navigating arguments.
“One situation that comes to mind is when my team had a disagreement on the project timeline. I organized a team meeting where everyone could voice their opinions and concerns. I helped the team evaluate the best approach that aligns with the project goals and budget, and we came to a consensus that we would involve two more consultants to accelerate the timeline. This approach was accepted by everyone and we moved forward with the project successfully.“
Pro tip: Use STAR methodology for answering such situational interview questions.
6. In Your Opinion, What Are The Most Common Workplace Inefficiencies in Our Industry?
This is a bit of a challenging question to answer. On one hand, you shouldn’t trip into the territory of calling out your former employer as this is always a bad strategy. On the other, you should provide some substance in your answer.
The best approach is to name one workflow you find problematic. Then explain how you might address this.
“I feel that many junior developers are given too simple tasks and not enough responsibilities. Essentially, many rely on code reviews from senior members as the only feedback mechanism and don’t feel quite accountable for contributing to the big picture. My idea is to give junior team members small, but bounded responsibilities over a particular secondary feature, for example. This way, they can proactively learn (without breaking crucial systems) and see how their work contributes to the product’s success.”
Even More Interview Questions for Culture Fit To Practice
- How do you ensure effective communication and collaboration with your colleagues and team members?
- Can you tell me about a time when you had to adapt to a new technology or process in the workplace?
- Do you prefer autonomous work or like to be co-located with the rest of the team?
- What does your ideal work schedule look like?
- How do you approach and handle constructive criticism and feedback?
- Which of our company’s values do you most identify with?
- Can you describe a situation in which you had to show leadership and initiative?
- How would you describe your decision-making process?
So How Do I Prepare for a Cultural Fit Interview?
The key to acing a culture-fit interview (or individual questions) is doing some company research. Specifically, read up on the company’s mission, corporate social responsibility (CRS) activities, and workplace values. You can also look up its code of employee conduct. Many publish these documents publicly.
The above should give you a good sense of the “vibe” an employer attempts to cultivate, as well as employee behaviors the organization promotes. Then model your replies to match their expectations.
In practice, here’s how to answer culture fit interview questions:
- First, explain why you want to work for this company. Describe the mission element or activity you feel closely aligned with. Mention how your personal values and interests match the corporate values.
- Next, describe how your past experiences, skills, and personality traits will make you a good add-on to the workplace and help shape their culture.
- Round up, with a quick statement on how you plan on contributing to the company’s culture.
Remember: Your goal is to paint a clear mental picture of yourself as the creme to the company’s Oreo cookie.