Being successful at a company involves more than completing tasks properly and on schedule. You'll also need to be a good fit for the company culture. Put simply, company culture is the shared values and priorities of an organization, as well as how people interact and relate.
If you're not a good fit for the company's workplace culture, you may find it hard to be successful, happy, and engaged with your work. That's a problem for you—and for the company. During interviews, you may be asked "What would be your ideal company culture?"
This is an important question both for you and for your prospective employer.
What the Interviewer Wants to Know
Interviewers want to get a sense of your priorities and how you work. If you flourish in a top-down management structure, a workplace with a flat or team-based organization may not suit your abilities. Or, maybe you've always worked in places where jeans and a button-down shirt are appropriate garb, and you're interviewing at a place where suits are the norm.
Interviewers ask this question because they want to know if you'll fit in well with the company.
How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Ideal Organizational Culture
Before you start to formulate an answer for an interview question about the company culture you would be most interested in working in, take the time to brainstorm about company culture as a whole, and what it means to you.
Here are some questions to ask when you're considering the workplace culture of an organization:
- Are employees at all levels involved in decision-making?
- Does the organization have a coherent mission and strategic plan, and are they clearly communicated to staff?
- Are teamwork and collaboration valued?
- Are employees rewarded based on merit or does political favoritism play a more important role?
- Does the organization encourage innovation and entrepreneurship?
- Is there a pattern of promotion from within?
- Does the company make a major investment in training and professional development?
- Are leaders and veteran staff encouraged to mentor?
- Is there an element of fun for employees who work there?
- Are employees afforded the flexibility to accommodate outside needs and interests?
Think through—or even write down—your responses to these questions. Now that you have these aspects in mind, you can prepare for this question by breaking down the process into three parts.
- Create a profile of your ideal organizational culture. What exactly is it you’re looking for in company culture?
- Research the culture of your target employer. Go to their website. The "About Us" and Career sections should provide some clues as to what the culture is like. Also, check their social media pages. You can even gain insight into questions about company culture right before your interview. Ask the staff who you meet early in the interview process to characterize the organization’s culture for you.
- Search Google for “(name of the company) reviews” to generate a list of sites with feedback from current or past employees about the organization. Do they get good reviews? What do they say about workplace conditions and culture?
One of the best ways to get an unbiased insider's view of corporate culture is to network with current or past employees. Search LinkedIn to see if you have any contacts at the organization or if your primary contacts are connected to any employees and ask them to describe the culture.
Once you have a sense of the company culture, as well as your own priorities when it comes to company culture, look for areas of overlap. This is what you'll want to emphasize in your answer.
Examples of the Best Answers
Take a look at some potential responses.
Example Answer #1
As a graphic designer, I flourish in a collaborative environment. I've worked in places where the marketing team and designers have felt oppositional, and it has led to absolutely acceptable designs, but I think the best results come out of workplaces where teams work together toward a common goal. I was struck by the focus on collaboration and teamwork in the job description for this role.
Why It Works: The candidate shows a preference for a work environment that matches the company culture.
Example Answer #2
I've found that I really appreciate the ability to share my knowledge with others, while continuing to grow and develop my skills. When I was browsing [Company Name] website, I was really excited to see the opportunities for taking classes, as well as the mentorship program.
Why It Works: Here, the response is framed around company priorities, and also shows the candidate is eager to continue to grow. That's something that employees tend to value!
Example Answer #3
I thrive in a work environment that values flexibility and work-life balance. During the pandemic, my work hours shifted to accommodate family needs, but even though my hours became unusual, I was able to accomplish as much as, or more than I had in the office. This helped me see the importance of making accommodations as a manager. Now, I ask team members their preferred work hours and make it clear that they're welcome to get in touch if personal issues require adjustments to their schedule.
Why It Works: As well as stating a clear company culture preference, this candidate is able to tie it back and show how it informs their management style.
Tips for Giving the Best Response
- Look for where your ideal culture overlaps with the company culture. Focus on areas where your preferences overlap with aspects of the company’s actual culture. After all, no corporate culture will exactly line up with your criteria. So, if an organization values innovation, you might emphasize your interest in an organization that supports staff initiative.
- Be thorough, but don't name all your preferences. Although you’ll want to carefully evaluate how the culture at your target organization matches your criteria to make a sound decision about the job, it’s usually not strategically advantageous to share your entire list of preferences. Some of these criteria can be kept to yourself.
- Show how you'll add value. Place the most emphasis on factors that can reveal how you will add value, as opposed to aspects of the culture that will satisfy your personal needs. You might focus less on elements like fun and flexibility, than on factors like opportunities for training and professional development, or rewards for high levels of performance.
What Not to Say
- Don't focus on perks. It's one thing to say you value a flexible workplace, but avoid responding that your biggest priorities are vacation time and leaving work early. This could make you appear lazy.
- Don't copy too literally. While it's helpful to reflect back on the company's stated values from their website or job description, don't use the exact same words or phrasing. If you do so, you'll appear insincere.
- Don't go negative. Instead of discussing company cultures that didn't work for you, focus on ones that did. Complaining or being negative in a job interview is typically best avoided.
- Don't lie. While you'll want to look for ways to show that you're a good match for the company, you don't want to be dishonest. If you say you're great at teamwork, but truly prefer to work on your own, both you and the company will be frustrated if you land the role.
- Don't make it all about you. While this is a question about your own preferences, as with all interview questions, the goal is to show the company why you're the right candidate to hire. That means that your response should focus on how you'll add value or how you fit in well with the existing culture.
Is This the Right Company Culture For You?
It’s important to carefully evaluate the company’s culture to determine whether it’s a fit for you. If the information you discover while you’re researching makes you think you might not want to work there, there’s no point in trying to convince the employer that you would be a good match for the job.
Consider whether this is the right position for you before you move forward with the application process. If you decide it’s a go, then it’s time to prepare for your interview.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- Do you work well with other people? Best Answers
- How would your co-workers describe your personality? Best Answers
- How would you handle a hostile work environment? Best Answers
- Do research: You'll want to have a good sense of the company culture to give the best response, and also be self-aware of environments where you thrive.
- Look for the overlap: Share how your preferences are a good match for the company culture.
- Be honest and strategic: While you don't want to be dishonest, look for ways to emphasize how you'll fit in and add value to the company.