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The importance of cultural fit in the workplace | Main region

The importance of cultural fit in the workplace

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For many organisations, “cultural fit” is a recruitment priority. In fact, hiring managers often consider your potential fit with their existing team to be just as important as your skills and experience.

As a vital factor in hiring decisions, it pays to understand what cultural fit is, why it’s so important and how to answer cultural fit interview questions.  

Cultural fit meaning

What is cultural fit? A common cultural fit definition is that it refers to how well an employee matches with the culture of an organisation and how well an organisation matches with the culture of an employee. Culture, in this instance, comprises values, attitudes and behaviours that shape how employees and employers do things at work. If you have ‘good’ cultural fit, you share and model similar values, attitudes and behaviours with your employer. 

After all, we’ve all seen instances of an employee who quits not long after being hired or who never seems to gel with the team. When the employer looks back in hindsight and carefully considers whether they were the right fit, the answer is usually no. That’s why a critical part of the recruitment process is making the best employer-employee match possible. 

To characterise an organisation’s culture, you could consider a myriad of factors including its:

  • Communication style
  • Leadership style
  • Customer interactions  
  • Work ethic
  • Approach to collaboration
  • Approach to professional development 
  • Equity, diversity and inclusion policies
  • Flexible work arrangements 

The list is long and corporate culture varies widely between organisations.

The importance of cultural fit in the workplace 

Cultural fit in the workplace is especially important when you consider the retention and talent supply challenges many organisations face today. Figures from our Hays Salary Guide show that a significant percentage of professionals are open to new job opportunities, with a poor management style or workplace culture one factor driving people into the jobs market. 

For employers in this climate, the importance of cultural fit becomes clear – corporate culture can make all the difference between chronic retention issues and staff shortages or a healthy organisation with loyal employees.

Employees, on the other hand, benefit from joining an organisation that’s the right cultural fit because it enables you to be a better version of yourself at work. For instance, if you value diversity and inclusivity at work, family-friendly work arrangements and meritocracy, you’ll thrive better in a culture that offers and supports these values over one that doesn’t. 

How is cultural fit assessed?

Organisations that hire for cultural fit will evaluate your resume and references to inform their decisions. They’ll screen your social media profiles to learn about your interests and networks. Then, in an interview, they’ll ask questions aimed at uncovering your values and organisational cultural preference. 

Such interview questions can be challenging if you are unfamiliar with them, so it’s a good idea to get a sense of common questions and answers ahead of an interview.

Cultural fit interview questions

Hiring managers know how to assess cultural fit, just as they know how to assess skills and competencies. So, what cultural fit interview questions should you expect to encounter from a hiring manager? Here are some of the common interview questions to be prepared for:

“Why us?”

If you’ve been for numerous job interviews, chances are you’ve been asked this question before. Employers who ask this simple cultural fit interview question can quickly learn if you understand their organisation’s culture. To demonstrate you understand the culture at the organisation you’re interviewing for, research it ahead of the job interview. 

Check company websites, social media accounts and online review sites. Prepare for your interview by thinking about the aspects of the organisation you identify with best. Select examples to show how your performance and experiences at work demonstrate your values – make sure you choose examples that align with the organisation’s values. 

If you’re interviewing at a large organisation, and you currently work in a similarly sized company, think of an example to show how that cultural experience equips you to transition well into this new role.

“What motivates you?”

Organisations want to hire people who find their company's culture motivating. They want a candidate who will be a good fit and thrive in their culture. We know that some of the key motivators for employees include working for an organisation that acknowledges good performance, trusts staff to fulfil responsibilities, provides upskilling opportunities and sets out clear career progression paths (to share a few examples). 

When answering this culture fit interview question, consider how the company's culture and values compare with previous cultures you’ve worked in. Will the company culture, values, beliefs and work environment motivate you? Maybe you’ve worked for a company with the same work ethic, for example. Draw comparisons and share examples to show how you were motivated and successful in that cultural environment.

“How do you like to be managed?”

Unsurprisingly, hiring managers ask this as one of their cultural fit interview questions to gauge how well-suited candidates are to their organisation’s management style. We recommend you make your answer a positive one. Think about what your previous managers have done well. Talk about why aspects of these relationships were positive. Avoid treating this question as a cue to air grievances. 

“Do you prefer to work at home or in the office?”

This is a common question in today’s hiring process. Consider telling your prospective employer that you see many benefits to both arrangements. Many people have mixed feelings about working from home and working in the office. Chances are the hiring manager you’re interviewing with could, too. The key here is to show you are flexible, positive, willing and open-minded. But having said this, if you require flexibility or a hybrid work environment, make it known.

How to prepare to answer cultural fit questions

In preparing to answer cultural fit questions in a job interview, ask the following first: Am I the right cultural fit? If the answer is no, do I see a future for myself in the role? If the answer is no, seriously consider if it’s in your interests to apply for the job. After all, if there are red flags before you begin, don’t expect those to magically disappear if you receive a job offer – the company culture is unlikely to change the minute you start. 

On the other hand, if you think you are a good culture fit for the organisation you are interested in joining, take stock of your core values, beliefs, attitudes and ways of working. Mark down the key points and prepare a list of examples that reflect positively on you as a fit for the company culture. For example, perhaps the organisation you wish to join values mentorship, and you have relevant experience. If so, share some of your relevant successes in that area.

With such preparation, you’ll be able to clearly articulate how your way of working will enhance the culture of the organisation you wish to join. You’ll be able to impress any manager who is hiring for cultural fit and you’ll elevate your chances of success with the many organisations that put a high value on cultural fit in the workplace.

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