You’ve submitted your thesis, finished your exams and have now had some time to process your results. All that college work you were worried about this time last year is finally finished and you’re thinking great — what now?

First of all, you might be happy to hear that while your final college grade can be a decent indicator for future performance, it’s not the be all and end all for employers in the same way it used to be.

While there are certain companies who do still require a minimum grade to get into their graduate programmes, most modern tech companies look at a multitude of other factors when evaluating someone’s potential to be successful in a role.

Your personality is one such factor. In fact, in a survey of 2000 bosses, 33% claimed that they know within the first 30 seconds whether or not they are likely to hire someone.

A consequence of this trend means that it has become increasingly commonplace for companies to have “culture fit” interview questions that evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, interests and values.

These questions often require a certain amount of inflection and critical analysis that a lot of younger people seem to struggle with — me included.

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

1. Why do you want to work for us?

This gets asked in nearly every interview so you should be prepared to answer this question. 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.

Some interviewers are happy to hear about accomplishments outside of work, while others will be more interested in hearing about something more work-related — 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 alignment 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 good idea of how you like to go about your work but also have enough research behind you so you can align 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.

So, are they all business or are they party animals? As always, do your research on the company prior and get a feel for where exactly on this spectrum they lie and base your answer off of that. If you read through the job spec closely, it’s likely there’ll be some insights into the traits they’re looking for in their ideal candidate.