The importance of cultural fit when job hunting, interviewing or even once having started a new job is often underestimated. Rather, most people focus on experience, qualifications, and technical skills. While these things are clearly important, of equal, if not more, importance is whether you, as a potential employee, are aligned with the company’s workplace culture.
Cultural fit is one of the hardest qualities to evaluate as, unlike technical aptitude, it can’t be measured objectively and is based purely on human judgement. The increase in remote jobs has further complicated the cultural fit part of the interview process for both the recruiter and the interviewee. A video call does not provide nearly the same insight into a person or workplace as meeting in the office for a face-to-face interview. That’s why we’ve come up with the 3 top tips to help you determine a company’s culture at a distance and get you culture fit ready for your interview. But first, let’s have a look at what ‘culture fit’ really means and why it is so important.
What does ‘culture fit’ mean, anyway?
The word ‘culture’, in a corporate context, is defined as a ‘set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize an institution or organization’. It is a company’s DNA, initially dictated by the values, beliefs and vision of the founders and how they decide to engage with and support their employees; and further developed by the common working attitudes and social behavior of the people who work there.
So, ‘culture fit’ literally means to fit in with the culture of a company - it’s as simple as that!
Why is culture fit so important?
Think of it like this: if you tick the majority of the technical aptitude boxes but lack some of the skills required, your employer can invest in resources to train you. However, no amount of resources can train you to fit in with a company culture whose values and common behaviors differ from your own. Even if you are the best software developer in your field, a recruiter’s perception can be changed if you, the interviewee, do not identify with the company culture.
It’s important to identify a company’s culture before jumping into the interview process to make sure the company is right for you and avoid wasting not only their time, but also your own.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at how to prepare for cultural fit interview questions and uncover company culture.
1. Determine the company culture.Start by analyzing the language used in the job description. Wording can reveal a lot about underlying priorities and values. For example, a post emphasizing passion, determination, the ability to meet tight deadlines and a fast-paced working environment, with no mention of employee perks, is unlikely to prioritize work-life balance.
Next, scour the internet for anything you can find out about the company. Do some digging on the company’s social media profiles to get a better idea of how they engage with followers, clients and employees. Take a look at what both the organization and its employees are sharing on LinkedIn. Job review sites, such as Glassdoor, are useful tools to gain insight into the ‘real’ company culture; take the comments with a pinch of salt and look for consistencies between reviews.
Look on the company website for the mission statement and take note of any keywords and references to their vision, outlining the organization’s goals, and values, communicating core beliefs such as integrity, transparency, diversity and growth.
2. Compare the company culture to your own work culture and values.
Compare the main aspects of your culture and the company's one. Find common points to introduce in the meeting as an icebreaker and also to detect any other specific cultural aspect that you don't like and you would not be comfortable working with.
If the company is not a good cultural fit for you, even if you were to get the job, you would likely be back on that job hunt sooner than anticipated!
3. Prepare questions to ask the interviewer.
Just as the recruiter wants to know whether you are a cultural fit for the company, you also want to confirm your perception of the company culture is accurate. Asking questions will give you further insight and confirm whether the company is right for you, as well as demonstrate a genuine interest in their processes and values. Some questions you could ask include:
- Why has the role opened up?
- How does the company reward success?
- What is your management style?
- How would you describe the company culture?
- Is there room for growth and career development?
4. Learn to identify and prepare for culture fit related questions.
Interview questions to assess cultural fit revolve around discovering more about you. The hiring manager wants to get a sense of your personality, core values and attitudes, and work style.
Once you have determined the company’s vision, values and beliefs, make a list of your own. That way, you can tailor your answers to highlight what you and the company have in common.
Most cultural interview questions are centered around two very simple questions, which you are likely to be familiar with. When considered carefully, you will find that the answers will prepare you for any other cultural fit questions the recruiter may fire at you:
- Why do you want to work for *company name*? Here, think about what values and attitudes you like about the company and why they inspire you. Demonstrate an understanding of the company’s vision.
- Why should *company name* choose you? Sneak in those values you have in common with the organization. Think about what you are passionate about, what motivates you, and what your skills - coding and non-coding - are.
Prepare the answers in bullet point form to expand upon in a natural and authentic way during the interview. Test out your answers with the following 10 questions for cultural interview practice:
- What do you look for in a company?
- What are you passionate about?
- Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
- What can you bring to the company that other candidates can’t?
- What makes you want to come into work each day?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Describe the work environment in which you flourish.
- How important is work-life balance to you?
- Tell me about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was very different from yours.
- Talk about a time when you were able to successfully persuade someone to see things your way at work.
The rapid increase in tech companies hiring remote software developers means not only taking the company culture into account, but also the broader working culture within a given country. In the United States you can generally expect a live-to-work mentality with high commitment working hours, punctuality, transparency, and a casual working environment where all employees are encouraged to share their suggestions and opinions, regardless of their status within the company. Ambition, commitment and a strong work ethic are values often rewarded in American workplace culture. Don’t hesitate to ask the hiring manager, or your future colleagues, to clarify cultural workplace customs commonplace to the American citizen.