After recruiting for several engineering companies including MongoDB, there’s something every hiring manager looked for when interviewing and that helped a lot of candidates to get hired even if they didn’t do great in all the interviews.
Cultural fit is one of the most important deal-breakers when interviewing, if the team feels that someone won’t fit well even though technically they can be the perfect fit they might not hire that person. The technical part can be learnt, the personal one, not as much.
Getting ready for cultural fit questions is key to success in an interview process on both sides, yours and the company you might be interviewing for.
I wanted to put together some information I always gave to my candidates when interviewing and it is applicable for anyone you might be meeting with. But remember that, usually, Hiring Managers are the ones who would make the final decision.
Check their LinkedIn profile
Yes, that’s the recruiter in me talking, but after checking how long they’ve been in the company for, if they have been promoted in that company, or anything else you can relate with, like maybe projects they’ve worked on or volunteered, it won’t be as scary to talk to them. It’s also easier to build rapport when having things in common.
In my opinion, having also knowing the face of the person you are talking to will ease your nerves a little bit and will put you in a more similar position as they know things about you before your meeting.
This would also give you the chance of coming up with questions that will help you to figure out if the team and the company is a good fit for you.
Find opinions of the company online
This might not be always possible, but I believe that if you search hard enough you’ll always find information about a company. Also, sometimes no information might be a good sign because people are more willing to share information on bad experiences.
Glassdoor is the most popular place to look for information. It’s a bit of work because to have full access to the information you will have to register and give information in a previous company you’ve worked for.
Regardless of the work that requires it provides a lot of info like opinions, salary bands, benefits, but more importantly, questions asked to other people on their interviews. In my experience, they usually are similar so there’s no harm going in there and taking a look.
Another really interesting site is Blind, here you can find information but also ask questions blindly about the compensation you’ve been offered or even if you want to know what to choose if you have a few offers.
There you could find a lot of cultural related questions and answers as well as technical, but this will help you to set up your expectations.
Quite honestly, I didn’t think about this myself but after working as a recruiter I can tell you that’s the key to knowing what to expect about the company and potential competency-based questions.
Being aligned with the company values will be also evaluated as part of the process, and most likely is how your performance will be evaluated (or at least part of it). Reading them and finding experiences that might resonate with them would be good for two reasons:
- You will know early on if the company is a good fit for you as those values is what they will be seeking for people who join the company.
- You can be prepared for competency-based questions where you’ve shown those values.
As well as a technical part in the interview process there will be more soft-skills/competency-based related questions.
To prepare for this kind of interview I think it’s good to look at the old (and probably overused) STAR Technique, which stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result.
Even if questions are not as straightforward as Tell me of a time when you… But any question can be answered using the star technique. What I would do is think about more general situations that can be applied to different scenarios. Then I would go step by step with every step of the STAR.
You can think about how to answer those questions by looking into the values of the company, so you should tweak your answers a little bit depending on what areas you are interested in making shine.
Try to think of times where you were a team player, mentored someone or make an impact in your work by implementing changes or new approaches in how things are done.
Questions to ask
Something that will happen over and over is the “Do you have any questions?” part. Making different questions will also make them remember you. So some of the ones I ask:
- What do you like the most and the least about working there? This might startle them a little bit but they will answer quite honestly so whatever they say it will be good to know.
- What does a successful employee look like in the company? This might tell you how they help with the growth of their employees.
- What are the long term plan for this role and the team? Show how keen you are in the role and in your personal growth.
If they haven’t given you some information about the role, the team or the day to day role you should as well, but if you can come up with something different they’ll appreciate it and it’s your time to take more control of the interview.
I can guarantee you, it will be very hard the first few interviews you have, but it will get easier with practice and you will polish your answers in every interview you do.
More importantly, don't be scared of asking something that you might not have understood or that is not clear, so if you get hired you’ll know everything beforehand and in case you need to compare offers you can make a decision easily.
Hiring managers always appreciate when candidates praise the company and have done their homework about how the company is doing, any news, new releases or anything that people who work for the company are proud of. Lookup for information and make sure you mention it during the process to show how keen you are on getting hired.