How Did You Fit in With the Company Culture?

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During an employment interview, the hiring manager is trying to determine how successful you would be as an employee with the company. Many factors go into your level of success, beyond the hard skills that show up on your resume. Soft skills are important too, as is how well your personality will complement the work culture at the company.

A typical interview question you might be asked is, "How did you fit in with the company culture at your last employer?" to help figure out how you would adjust to the work environment at a new job.

How did you fit in with the company culture?

When answering questions about your previous employer, you should always try to stay as positive and complimentary as possible. Hiring managers will tend to view negativity as a flaw of yours as an employee, rather than as a fault of your previous situation.

It can be challenging to answer interview questions about yourself. You need to express confidence in your considerable abilities, sharing concrete examples of your successes on the job, especially those that relate directly to the requirements of the position you’re interviewing for, but balance that with a measure of humility. You will want the hiring manager to believe in your qualifications, and understand that you will be a good fit in their work environment as well.

The safest approach is to avoid saying anything negative about the company culture at your previous employer so that employers don't think of you as someone who has trouble fitting in. Focus on the aspects that you enjoyed, and offer examples of how they allowed you to be successful on the job.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to come up with something positive to say about a company’s culture, especially if it was one of the reasons that resulted in your leaving the job. You should be truthful, but put your experience in the most positive light, and be careful to frame your response without placing blame on your previous company.

Describe the Company Culture

Since you’ll likely be asked about the company culture at your current or previous job, it’s a good idea to think through how you would describe it. Take a look at the website if you haven’t in a while, familiarize yourself with how they present themselves, and then come up with your own pitch about the company culture and how you fit in from there.

A good way to start is to describe some of the aspects of your employer's culture that you like, and how those attributions might have encouraged or enhanced your accomplishments. For example, if your former employer rewarded innovation and thinking "outside of the box," you might explain how that type of environment harmonized with your own creativity and produced positive results.

Be Prepared to Respond to Follow Up Questions

You should be prepared for challenging follow up questions about company culture, such as "What was the most difficult aspect of your company's culture for you?." In a situation like this, try to pick something relatively innocuous that wouldn't create doubts about your attitude, or something where your lack of conformity could be viewed positively.

For example, you might say "Given the conservative nature of the industry, the organization was very careful about implementing changes. I understood the nature of their concerns but was somewhat frustrated by the pace of change. My response was to present the rationale for change in a thorough but cooperative manner until all of management's concerns were answered. In the end, I think management viewed me as a team player and valued my interest in enacting positive changes."

However you choose to answer, you should emphasize your ability to adapt to different environments and bring about positive results in a variety of office cultures.

Company Culture at the New Job

While you’re preparing for your interview, you’ll probably find information on the company culture at the job you’re interviewing for. Use this to come up with a few examples of how your work style will allow you to excel in the environment at your target company. That way, when you are asked about the company culture at your previous job, you can steer the conversation towards what a super fit you’ll be in a new position.