15 Common Cultural Interview Questions

By Mike Simpson

Cultural interview questions are one of the trickier parts of the hiring process for candidates. Why? Because there isn’t a universal right or wrong answer to any of them.

What can seem like a reasonable response might simply not resonate with the hiring manager, causing your resume to end up in the discard pile even though you didn’t actually make a mistake.

Does that mean you should panic? Of course not. You just need to prepare. If you want to make sure you’re ready to tackle culture fit interview questions, here’s what you need to know.

What Are Cultural Interview Questions?

Before we dig into the cultural interview questions, let’s talk about what they are. While “culture fit” may seem like a buzzword, it really isn’t. It’s simply a reference to how well you mesh with the company’s mentality, priorities, values, work approach, and environment.

For example, let’s say you prefer independent work, but the workplace is highly collaborative. If that’s the case, you may not be a great culture fit.

Overall, 90 percent of employers think that finding new hires that are good culture fits is a priority. Because of that, they ask questions that help them gauge how well you’d fit into the workplace.

So, should you skew your answers based on what you think the hiring manager wants to hear? No, you shouldn’t. While you do want to remain professional, honesty is the best policy. After all, finding a good culture fit increases the odds that you’ll achieve job satisfaction. And by being honest, you’re chances of finding a great fit go up dramatically.

15 Cultural Interview Questions

Alright, now’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, the culture fit interview questions. Here are 15 culture interview questions you might encounter, as well as a little insight about them.

1. Can you describe your ideal manager?

This question helps the hiring manager assess whether your preferences align with what they or the job’s supervisor bring to the table. Ideally, you want to mention traits or leadership strategies that help you be your best.

2. Can you tell me what your ideal work environment would be like?

With this question, it’s all about physical spaces and general vibe, letting the hiring manager see if you’re gel with the workplace. Whether you prefer open offices or private workspaces is worth mentioning, as well as if you do best in high-energy or lower key workplaces.

3. How would you describe your work style?

This one is more about approach, helping the hiring manager figure out if your methods match with established practices at that company. We’ve actually covered the “what is your work style” interview question in-depth, but the gist of a good approach is going over your personal strategy with some quick mentions of the traits that help you shine.

4. What motivates you?

Hiring managers usually want to know what it takes to keep you focused and engaged, allowing them to determine if they can help you excel. We’ve also tackled the “what motivates you” interview question before, but your basic goal should be to talk about the tasks, values, or missions that ignite your passion and why you like them.

5. How do you manage stress?

With this culture fit interview question, the hiring manager’s goal is to see how you handle pressure. Every job comes with stress, and they want to make sure you won’t lash out or shut down.

We’ve actually talked about the “how do you handle stress” interview question previously. For a quick summary, a great answer usually involves describing how you navigated a stressful work situation before, including the skills and traits that let you come out the other side no worse for wear.

6. What did you like most about your last employer? What did you like least?

When the hiring manager asks these cultural fit interview questions, it lets them find out more about your ideal environment, manager, and more. Again, it helps them assess whether you and this company would mesh, using your past experiences to give them insights.

MIKE'S TIP: While the latter part of this question might seem like an invitation to bad mouth your last employer, don’t do that. Insults, aggression, and similar approaches reflect badly on you, even if the situation was objectively horrible. Instead of discussing how you’re leaving behind a terrible job, talk about how a new position helps you move toward something you want that wasn’t available. It answers the question in a safer way, leaving your reputation intact.

7. Why did you apply for this job?

While this may not seem like a culture interview question, it can be. It gives the hiring manager clues about your priorities and mentality. The aspects of the opportunity that stood out to you can be very revealing, letting them know whether you’re genuinely passionate about the work, workplace, and more.

8. What three words describe you best and why?

Again, this is one of those questions that lets a hiring manager learn more about your personality and priorities. The words you choose give them a ton of insight into how you view yourself and the value you provide.

9. How do you define work-life balance?

This one can feel a bit tricky. In many cases, the hiring manager is assessing whether you’ll think you have work-life balance if they hire you. Since most professionals are after work-life balance, if they think you’ll feel satisfied with it if hired, you may move up in their eyes.

10. How do you view having friends in the workplace?

While everyone forges connection at work, not everyone goes as far as making friends with their coworkers. Whether that’s a positive or a negative varies, as some workplaces are more open about relationship building while others prefer to keep things highly work-oriented.

11. Tell me about a time where you went above and beyond.

This is a question that lets the hiring manager gauge your willingness to go the extra mile, something that the company may value. By asking for an example, they’ll see if it’s part of your nature.

12. How would your former coworkers describe your work style?

While you can’t read your coworkers’ minds, you probably have a good idea about how they perceive your work. By asking this question, the hiring manager gets the inside scoop while also being able to test your honesty when they check your references.

13. Can you tell me about a time where you had a disagreement with a coworker?

How you approach conflict can play a big role in whether you’ll fit into the company’s culture. By asking this question, you’ll have to provide an example, allowing the hiring manager to find out whether your strategies mesh with the company.

14. How do you prefer to communicate with your manager? What about your coworkers?

Not all companies use the same communication tools and approaches. Since communicating with your team is vital to success, the hiring manager is trying to figure out if the company’s norms reasonably match your preferences.

15. What about working here appeals to you most?

This is very similar to the “why do you want to work here” interview question, which we’ve tackled before. Not only does it let the hiring manager determine what you know about the company, but also why you think it’s a good match, the latter of which can help them determine if there is a strong culture fit.

5 Good “Cultural Fit” Questions to Ask at the End of an Interview

Alright, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about why hiring managers are worried about culture fit. The thing is, you likely are, too. Overall, 46 percent of candidates think it’s incredibly important, while 88 percent feel it’s at least a relatively important factor.

In many cases, a strong culture fit leads to higher job satisfaction. That’s why you should seize opportunities to learn more about what the company brings to the table.

When that moment at the end of the interview arrives where you get to ask some questions, toss some questions about culture in the mix. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are five good culture fit ones to add to your list.

    1. How would you describe the company’s culture?
    2. What’s your favorite thing about working here?
    3. How would you describe your (or the position supervisor’s) leadership style?
    4. What traits do your most successful employees have in common?
    5. How is feedback delivered?

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, cultural interview questions help the hiring manager figure out if what they offer and what you need match up. When you prepare to answer these questions, consider what it takes for you to thrive and use that as a guide. That way, you can answer strategically but honestly, increasing the odds that, when a job offer does come along, it will genuinely be a good fit.

Good luck!

FREE: Job Interview Questions & Answers PDF Cheat Sheet!

Download our "Job Interview Questions & Answers PDF Cheat Sheet" that gives you word-for-word sample answers to some of the most common interview questions including:

  • What Is Your Greatest Weakness?
  • What Is Your Greatest Strength?
  • Tell Me About Yourself
  • Why Should We Hire You?
  • And more!

Click Here To Get The Job Interview Questions & Answers Cheat Sheet

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.