A Step By Step Guide to Showing You're the Right Culture Fit for a Company

You’ve lined up an interview for your next great opportunity and are excited about the prospects. But in addition to perfecting your “tell me about yourself” pitch and rehearsing common interview questions, there’s another secret weapon you must deploy: demonstrating that you’ll fit right in.

Let me explain…

Your experience and skills got you in the door, but now the hiring manager wants to know that you’ll buy into the company’s vision and work well with the current team. Having been involved in my fair share of candidate interviews, I can tell you that you’re more likely to get a job offer—with negotiating power—if you show you’re a cultural fit.

Why? People who fit in with the culture tend to be happier in their roles. And happy employees, as it turns out, are productive and driven. When it comes to prepping yourself for that culture audition in the interview process, bear in mind that there are universal traits that make you appealing in the eyes of the hiring manager and your future colleagues. So, where do you start?

Step 1: Discover Your Potential Employer’s Culture

Before the interview, you’ll want to spend some time really researching the culture. Head to the company’s career page or Muse profile to learn about the core values, then browse through the blog or social media profiles to see how those values play out day-to-day. Better yet, scan your network for any current or past employees who can give you a more detailed (read: honest) overview.

Through these steps, you’ll likely find that an employer uses particular value statements or keywords often. Are they all about innovation? Do they like to tell stories about their employees being adventurous? Does a charitable mission go hand-in-hand with growth?

And does all of this match up with what you’re looking for in a company? Great. Once you have this intel in hand, you’re ready to wow the interviewer with answers tailored to the culture.

Demonstrate it: Come prepared with anecdotes that showcase how your experience and passions align with these values. If you’re excited about a specific aspect of the company’s culture, don’t be shy about mentioning that. We’re not saying you should open with an enthusiastic “Pizza Mondays will be the reason I show up on day one!” but do show that you’ve noticed the cultural norms that set this office apart. For example, “I enjoyed reading about the team’s weekly All-Hands meetings. In my next move, I’m really looking for a company that is open and transparent with employees, and it’s clear how much you value that here.”

Step 2: Use These Universal Values in Your Interview

Though every company has its own set of values, most employers look for certain characteristics when determining how successful you’ll be as a teammate. Among them?

You’re Willing to Learn
Companies want to know you can grow with them. Candidates willing to learn new skills and develop as professionals are more likely to stay long-term, growing their expertise for their role, and building and maintaining a strong knowledge of the company.

Demonstrate it: After showing off the skills you have for the current role, explain to the hiring manager what you’re excited about taking on in the future and ask questions about how you might do that there. While you don’t want it to seem like you’ll be itching for a promotion after four months, you do want to show that you’re eager to learn and looking for a place where you can grow your career for a while.

You’re Motivated
Motivated people not only get things done, but they perform at higher levels and push the envelope of innovation. When hiring managers find motivated candidates, they want to snap them up, so showcasing this trait will likely keep you on their radar, even if you don’t land this particular role.

Demonstrate it: Ask intelligent questions about the open position and its role among other departments, with the goal of understanding the team’s current pain points. Then, if ideas for how you’d solve a problem or enhance current processes come to mind, don’t hesitate to show enthusiasm and share them. Again, you don’t want to act like you know it all from the couple hours you’ve spent in the interview process, but showing that you’re excited to jump in to the team’s current work can go a long way.

You See the Big Picture
High performers understand the “why” behind what they’re doing and how it affects the company’s overall success. Show that you understand how your performance will affect the bottom line, and you’re bound to impress.

Demonstrate it: Not only research the company’s business model before your interview, but seek to understand the industry as a whole—competitors, large customers, and trends. Where you can, weave in this knowledge during your interview discussions.

You’re a Team Player
Teams get things done. Employees who don’t play well with others not only cause drama and distraction, but they can impair successful outcomes.

Demonstrate it: Be ready with an example of a project you worked on with others. Be careful to not just toot your own horn. Instead, share how you collaborated with colleagues and how valuable their efforts were, too. While it may seem counterintuitive to be talking about someone else’s accomplishments, done well it will make you look like a great colleague.

Remember that when a potential employer is reading you for cultural fit (and those hireable traits they’re dying to see), you are also evaluating them and the company. While going through the hiring process, consider what’s most important to you. Cultural fit goes both ways and when it matches up, magic happens for your career.

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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