If you’ve reached the interview stage of your job application, you probably already have the skills and experience required to get the job done, or at least enough experience that it’ll be easy to train you.
However, you still need to pass the “culture fit” test—the unofficial screening process where the recruiter will ask personal questions about your ambitions and your hobbies, and try to determine whether or not you’ll be a good fit at the company.
Here are five “culture fit” questions you might get asked at your next interview, along with how to answer them.
“What do you do outside of work?”
Recruiters pose this question to get an idea of what interests you, what your hobbies are, and even to get an idea about your idea of work-life balance. It’s also a good way for recruiters to see how active and outgoing you are; the company or organization might throw lots of events or group activities that require your participation.
When faced with this question, it’s best to simply discuss some of your hobbies, especially if you’ve already included them on your résumé. However, you don’t want to discuss any old hobbies. You don’t want to bring up binging on Netflix or your penchant for going to Sunday matinee movies.
Talk about your involvement in hobbies that add value to your cultural profile, such as charity work, volunteering, hiking, intellectual pursuits (i.e. learnings languages), successful pastimes, and participating in competitive sports.
“What’s the last book you read?”
Recruiters like this question for two reasons: one, it’s a light question on the surface. Two, it can actually give away clues about the applicant’s critical thinking skills, literary taste, and analytical skills.
To make a good impression when asked this question, prepare an answer for both a nonfiction and fiction book in advance. Some interviewers might surprise you by asking you about the last “nonfiction” or “fiction” book you read, and you don’t want to be put on the spot.
Choose an impressive book for each category and try to prepare answers for the following questions:
- Why did I read this book?
- What is the book about?
- Who wrote the book?
- What key lesson did the book teach me?
“What are you passionate about?”
The key to giving a good interview is being honest; avoid cliche answers such as “getting results” “helping people,” or “working hard”—the recruiter will already be able to see from your résumé if you’re a hard worker or not.
Instead, you can use this question to discuss things either in your personal or professional life that inspire you. Your passion(s) don’t necessarily need to crossover with your professional life, but it’s a bonus if you can tie the two together seamlessly.
For example, if you’re a coder, you might claim that you’ve always been passionate about solving puzzles and mysteries, and this led you down the career path of a coder.
“What do you hope to achieve in your career?”
When it comes to answering these types of interview questions, don’t be afraid to be honest. Recruiters are looking for people who have drive and ambition, so you can admit that you’re still a work in progress.
Don’t limit yourself when it comes to this question, either: you don’t simply need to quantify your “career” by paid positions. Incorporate the acquisition of skills, clients, or other milestones into your success. For example, rather than claiming that you want to work in management one day, you might instead say that you hope to develop a specific skill set, increase your work with high-profile clients, or reach a certain figure in sales.
One thing to avoid is talking about working for competitors. Most companies are looking for long-haul employees, and you want to make it clear that you only see your professional future within their organization, at least for now.
“Who inspires you and why?”
For this question, you don’t need to limit yourself to known figures, political figures, or celebrities—go ahead and talk about anyone, so long as you can justify why they’re an inspiring person.
It’s a good idea to choose someone who’s taught you a moral or life lesson about success, determination, failure, confidence, or self-belief. It’s also not a good idea to choose a known “motivational” figure. It’s likely these people will be cited very frequently by candidates and won’t make your profile original or interesting.
Instead you can choose family members, former colleagues, or professors, and prepare the following questions in advance:
- Why does this person inspire you?
- What has this person done that is impressive?
- What did you learn from this person?
- Why did you choose this person?
Overall, “culture fit” questions are just like any other interview questions: The more you respond honestly, the better the outcome. It’s a good idea to be genuine about your passions and interests; you don’t want to be stuck working in a cultural environment that feels alien to you.