The ‘culture fit’ interview is an important part of the hiring process for many Canadian companies. It helps employers understand how you will adapt to their organization’s values, mission and philosophy once hired. Questions related to culture fit may sometimes be included as part of a job interview, rather than one separate interview.
As a newcomer to Canada, you may be unfamiliar with Canadian work culture and what a culture fit interview entails. However, with advance preparation you can respond to these questions with confidence and improve your chances of landing the job you want. In this article, we outline how to prepare for a culture fit interview in Canada, including why it is important, what to expect in this interview, and tips on answering culture fit questions.
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What is company culture?
Company culture encompasses the values, attitudes, and practices of an organization that help define how it operates as a business and how it treats its employees. Many organizations work hard to establish and maintain their culture and, therefore, view it as instrumental to their success. As a result, hiring employees whose values align with their own is important to most companies.
Why is company culture important while looking for a job in Canada?
Newcomers are often unfamiliar with Canadian work culture and get nervous before a culture fit interview. However, culture fit interviews are important not just for the company, but also for you, as a candidate, to evaluate whether a particular job is right for you.
As an employee, your company’s culture will impact the way you work, your relationships with team members, how you’re treated, and the satisfaction you derive from your job. There are many potential benefits to learning about the culture of each company you apply to when looking for a job in Canada, including:
It can help make your job search smoother
As a newcomer, learning about the company culture at various companies can help you recognize your own values, allowing you to seek jobs in companies that will match your work style and professional goals. Learning about a company’s culture also helps in the application process because you can customize your resume and cover letter to reflect your knowledge of the company, why you want to work there, and how you would be a good fit.
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Communicate your value to a potential employer
Once you determine that a company’s culture is a good match for your work style and values, you can then communicate this to the recruiter during the interview with responses that reflect how your values align with the employer’s values, as well as how your diversity may contribute to the company culture.
Improve the likelihood of finding a job you enjoy
If you work for a company with a culture that motivates and inspires you, you’re more likely to enjoy the work environment, collaborate well with your co-workers, and do your best work. If you work at a company where the culture is not a favourable match, you may be dissatisfied or stressed, and may need to start searching for a new job sooner than you’d expected.
Why do employers look for culture fit?
Employers look for culture fit because they strive to hire employees who will help strengthen the organization’s culture, adapt quickly, work well with the team, and stay on for the long term. Additional benefits to a company include:
- Higher job satisfaction among employees
- Improved performance on the job
- Shorter learning curves for new employees
- Employees are more invested in the company’s success
- Lower employee turnover
What to look for in a company culture
While assessing a company’s culture, it’s important to remember there’s no one ‘right’ culture. How well you fit into a particular culture depends on your unique personality traits, and what works well for someone else may not necessarily be a culture fit for you.
If you already have a few years of work experience under your belt, you may have a fair idea of the type of work culture you perform best in. On the other hand, if you’re a newcomer to Canada or just starting your career, it may be a good idea to speak to other professionals in your network to understand what the company culture is like in different Canadian organizations.
There are a number of factors to consider when you examine a company’s culture that can help determine if it’s a good fit for you, such as:
People-focused versus operations-oriented culture
Organizations that focus on people define success differently than those that focus on operations. A people-focused culture believes its employees are at the core of its business and will prioritize employee well-being with practices such as flexible work arrangements, inclusive policies, and workplace transparency. Such an organization is more likely to encourage employees to share ideas and take risks.
An operations-oriented company places value on processes to fulfill its goals, and will emphasize employees’ technical skills, as well as an ability to follow procedures. Job expectations and measures of success are more rigidly defined and outside-the-box thinking from employees may be discouraged.
Teamwork versus individual contribution
A culture that values individual contributions and competition among employees will feel very different than a collaborative culture that relies on teamwork and shared vision to innovate. An organization that cultivates a strong sense of community among employees may appreciate the diverse contributions you, as a newcomer, bring to your team. On the other hand, if you work better on your own, an organization that values individual contribution might be a better fit for you.
Leadership style or management approach
The leadership style of a company can range from a traditional hierarchical approach to an open, collaborative style. In a traditional, or “top down” culture, business decisions are made by management with little input from employees and employees are expected to follow orders without questioning them.
Many Canadian companies, however, take a more collaborative approach to management. This approach encourages input from employees at all levels of the organization and decisions are made in a somewhat democratic manner. In such companies, employees may have more responsibility for and flexibility in their own work. It’s important to understand the leadership style of a company when preparing for a culture fit interview, particularly if you seek a management job, since you will be expected to practice these values.
A company that cultivates a culture of learning provides more than just on-the-job training. Considering a company’s formal professional development practices, such as opportunities for advancement, performance review processes, and training resources, is important.
How a company operates can also determine opportunities for professional growth. A nimble company that pivots and innovates to evolve will tend to hire employees who think outside the box, take risks, and are eager to expand their skills. Whereas a company that is slow to change may offer fewer learning opportunities within a role.
How to prepare for a culture fit interview
Preparing for a culture fit interview will help you communicate your ability to fit in with the team, transition smoothly into the role, and support the company’s values and mission. Here are some useful tips to prepare for a culture fit interview:
Treat the culture fit interview like any other interview
Many Canadian companies conduct the culture fit interview towards the end of the recruitment process, after two or more interview rounds. Often, candidates who make it to the culture fit interview assume a decision has already been made in their favour, or that culture fit is only a formality. The reality is that culture fit is an important priority for Canadian employers and a lack of alignment with company culture can easily be a dealbreaker.
As far as possible, approach the culture fit interview like you would any other interview. Going in prepared, behaving professionally, and adhering to interview etiquette will help you ace the interview.
Do your research
Before your interview, research the company online. Visit the company website and review its social media presence to get a feel of the culture. Many company websites describe their mission and values, employee engagement, and what it’s like to work there.
You may find additional information by visiting career sites, such as Glassdoor which posts employee ratings of companies, and searching news sources for articles that feature the company.
Speak to current employees
Networking is a great way to gather information on a particular company’s culture before your interview. Leverage your network to connect with other employees in the organization and ask them for coffee chats to learn more about what it is like to work there. A future co-worker may offer a different perspective than what you learn through the formal interview process or online.
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Prepare questions to ask
At the conclusion of the interview, you may be asked whether you have questions. This is an opportunity to learn more about the company’s culture. It also indicates to the recruiter that you’re genuinely interested in the job and engaged in the interview. Some examples of questions to ask are:
- What is the best part about working here?
- What professional development opportunities does the company provide?
- What is the dress code?
- Does the team meet socially outside of the office (or in person if working remotely)?
Practice your responses
Preparation is key to acing a job interview, and although you cannot predict the questions that will be asked, you can expect certain topics will likely be addressed. Practice your responses to potential culture fit questions in front of a mirror or with a friend. This will help you structure your responses right and make sure you don’t leave out any important points.
Commonly asked culture fit questions and how to answer them
Here are some questions you may encounter in a culture fit interview and guidelines on how to prepare your responses. Your responses should be thoughtful, authentic and focus on positive aspects of yourself and the company.
Describe your ideal work environment.
Reflect on your previous roles and how the work environment enhanced your experience. What about the work environment motivated you, boosted your mood, or helped you grow professionally? If you were dissatisfied with any aspects of past work environments, consider what improvements might have helped. Share an honest and positive response that describes an environment where you feel you would excel. Avoid bad-mouthing past employers or companies as that may reflect poorly on you.
Do you work best alone or in a team?
The amount of collaboration required for a job can vary significantly. One job may require a lot of teamwork and shared goals, while another may involve working remotely with minimal interaction and supervision. Use examples to demonstrate how you collaborate with coworkers, and include how you balance solo and teamwork responsibilities.
How would your co-workers describe you?
Your answer to this question should describe your personality traits and ability to work well with others based on how you believe your co-workers perceive you. Avoid giving a vague response, such as “I’m the perfect colleague,” or “My co-workers loved working with me.” This is an opportunity to emphasize any character traits you possess that align with the company’s culture based on your research. Employers may also gauge your level of self-awareness and honesty with this answer by comparing your response to what your references say.
How do you handle stress? Or describe a time when you handled a stressful situation at work.
To answer this question, consider the strategies you use to manage stress during a typical work week, such as organizational skills or effective communication with co-workers or customers. Think of one situation that demonstrates how one or all of these skills contributed to de-escalating stress in your workplace.
What drives you? Or what keeps you motivated at work?
The employer will want a response that indicates how dedicated you will be to the job. Provide an answer that focuses on your values, such as enjoying challenges, a sense of accomplishment, or a shared vision––and how they align with the company’s values.
Tell us about a situation where you failed at something.
The employer wants to know how you respond to adversity in the workplace. Your answer should demonstrate your ability to learn from your mistakes, adapt, and grow professionally. In this answer, describe a situation in which you failed, acknowledge your error, and explain how you applied your learnings in rectifying the situation or in future projects.
What is your leadership style?
Even if you don’t have a lot of professional leadership experience, you can consider other experiences, such as in sports, a class project, or volunteer work to answer this question. Ideally, your response should indicate a leadership style that is likable, positive, motivational and collaborative.
Why do you want to work for us?
This is an opportunity to show that you’ve researched the company by explaining how your skills, values and professional goals align with the company’s culture. Speak with genuine interest and passion about the prospect of working there.
The culture fit interview is an important part of the hiring process for most Canadian employers. Essentially, it helps recruiters gauge whether a candidate fits into their existing company culture and is passionate about the company’s mission. As a newcomer, you may be unfamiliar with this concept, but with some advance preparation, you’ll be all set to ace the culture fit interview and land a job in Canada.