Learning about a company’s culture before your interview is important for two reasons. First, you want to ensure the company is a good fit for you in terms of responsibilities, relationships with colleagues and work environment.

No matter how attractive a role or a company is, there's no point going through the interview process if the company's values don't align with yours or you don't anticipate you'll enjoy working with the people there.

Second, it's important to show the hiring manager that you will be a strong addition to the company’s culture. For employers these days, finding candidates who are a culture-fit is absolutely essential as those that typically share the same values are more likely to thrive in the work environment.

When you know what the company’s values are, what the organisation expects from employees and what sort of employees they seek, you can tailor your answers to the interviewer’s questions to highlight why you would be a good fit.

To help you prepare for this part of the interview process, we’ve picked out the 5 most common questions and our thoughts on the best approach to answering them.

1. Why do you want to work for us?

This questions gets asked in nearly every interview so you should be prepared to answer it. If you’re focusing on candidate-centric things like work-life balance, benefits, compensation, better commute — you’re thinking about this question wrong.

Do your research on the job and company so you can give a few solid examples on not only why you’re a good fit for the company but how you can add value.

There are no right or wrong answers to this question but there are definitely good and bad ones. Therefore, it’s important that you show self-awareness of your skills and can clearly articulate your motivation for this specific role with this specific company.

2. Tell me about an accomplishment you’re proud of.

While some interviewers are happy to hear about accomplishments outside of work, others will be more interested in hearing about something more professionally focused. It’s alright to ask if they have a preference for one or the other.

With this question, they want to find out what you’ve done that sets you apart from the rest of the candidates. If you’re uncomfortable bragging, remember that they’re just trying to get a glimpse of your personality.

Interviews can be boring, but thankfully most people are not. This open-ended question gives you a chance to talk about something other than the position and your work experience. It doesn’t matter what you’re proud of, as long as you’re proud of something.

So don’t worry about sounding like you’re full of yourself. Tell a short, interesting story about what you did, why it mattered to you and what you learned from it.

3. Tell me about a time you solved a problem at work.

The interviewer here is looking at two things;

  • What was the issue?
  • How did you approach it?

They’re trying to get an idea of not only your decision-making process but how you behave at work. The problem that you solved is unimportant. What the interviewer is looking for is how you solved it and whether that is aligned with their company’s values.

While some roles are highly collaborative in nature and therefore require a lot of teamwork, the requirements for other roles can focus a lot on using your initiative and working by yourself.

Closely examine the job spec and the requirements listed prior to the interview to get a clear definition of what their expectations are for the role and then reflect on a relevant example that you have. We’ve already covered using the STAR method to answer questions and it can easily be applied to this question.

4. How do you like to be managed?

What the interviewer is doing here is assessing what your work preferences are. Generally, employees who have a strong working relationship with their manager tend to not only perform better but also stay at companies longer than those who don’t.

In essence, they’re trying to uncover what your “perfect” manager would look like. Try to think about previous bosses that you’ve enjoyed working with, the management style they employed and why you enjoyed working with them.

Do you prefer those who are more process-driven or do you prefer having more autonomy to make decisions? Do you prefer weekly face-to-face meetings or would you rather keep in touch over email daily?

You need to go in with a strong idea of how you like to work whilst also aligning that with what their expectations are for the role. Most managers can accommodate workers with different preferences and needs, but only if you’re able to articulate it correctly.

5. How would your previous colleagues describe you?

Many modern companies actively work to foster a strong culture by organising team-building activities such as day-trips, happy hours and other events. Therefore, it makes sense that when they’re looking for people to bring in that they’ll want people who can add to this environment.

Employers ask this question to gain a sense of your personality and strengths. It can also show how self-aware you are, as employers may be able to compare your answer with the feedback your references have shared about you. Interviewers will look for characteristics and personality traits that would contribute to your success in the position.