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Common Mistakes Made in Culture Interviews (part 2)

Posted on 11 October 2023

Common Mistakes Made in Culture Interviews (part 2)

​7-minute read

A few months ago, we released the first instalment (Career Advice (perituspartners.co.uk)) of our article series, focusing on the common errors people make during cultural interviews. The response was overwhelmingly positive, underscoring the community's eagerness to gain insights from those who are directly evaluating these interviewing rounds.

Building upon the previous article, we aim to address more areas enabling you to recognise potential missteps in yourself, and more importantly, equipping you with strategies to steer clear of these pitfalls in the future.

In the second part of our series, we had the privilege of speaking with three professionals: Alaa ElSayed, Senior Talent Acquisition at Scoutbee; Colette Rollin, Senior Talent Acquisition at Conductor; and Neha Rana, a former recruiter who has embarked on her own entrepreneurial journey.

While this article delves deeper into valuable lessons, it's worth noting that some themes we discussed were similar to what others have also been sharing with me. This highlights that these mistakes can creep into all areas no matter your industry, job role or skill level.

Embrace the wisdom, continuously enhance your skill set, and strive for daily improvements to improve your prospects of securing your next position.

 

Core Missing Alignment

In previous articles, we have explored the shift of these interviews from "culture fit" to "culture add." However, a consistent theme continues to emerge: alignment.

All three of our guests explained the importance of alignment, particularly concerning the values and behaviours job seekers and organisations must share in order for the partnership to be a success.

This doesn't imply that you should mould yourself precisely to match the company's narrative. Instead, the key lies in having a fundamental alignment with the overarching behaviours and mission. This alignment is essential for making a meaningful and successful contribution to the company.

Individuals naturally possess diverse values, just as companies do. While you might resonate with certain values and not with others, the goal is to discover harmony. This allows for individuals to connect with the existing team while simultaneously offering fresh perspectives.

To pinpoint the right team fit, a deep understanding of yourself is crucial. This includes your values, career aspirations, and the work environments that bring out your best. Armed with this self-awareness, you can express your requirement allowing both parties to swiftly learn whether the environment is in line for your growth and success.

 

Failing to Fill the Gap

Creating a positive impression during interviews of this nature can be remarkably straightforward when you pinpoint gaps within the company and explain how your skills align with addressing these.

While easier said than done, asking inquisitive questions, and adopting a curious mindset can offer substantial insights in a short time frame.

Alaa mentioned that by delving into the product and industry, you can anticipate the company's potential directions. From here, you can see prospective avenues for value add. It's essential, however, to refrain from positioning yourself as a sole saviour, recognising that the gaps you identify might not be entirely accurate. Nevertheless, this demonstrates an attempt to grasp the internal landscape, which sends a positive message to the team.

Colette also contributed that candidates who can discern cultural differences and adapt their approach quickly stand out. Given that many companies hire attitude, the ability to adapt inclusively can significantly improve your candidacy during team evaluations.

While "culture add" remains pivotal, a pragmatic approach involves assessing the business's current market positioning, its maturity, and the existing team set-up. Consider what you can contribute based on your background to propel the company forward. Highlight the distinctive skills you possess, illuminating them authentically during the interaction.

 

Shying away from weaknesses

Everyone possesses weaknesses; however, there is resilience in initially acknowledging these vulnerabilities. Moreover, the strength lies in articulating them with a sense of humility and a dedicated commitment to personal and professional growth.

Alaa highlighted that those who attempt to portray themselves as flawless often end up projecting inauthenticity. This can signal a more significant concern regarding one's capacity to identify areas for improvement.

As elaborated by Colette this concept extends to defining your specific expectations to an employer. Embrace openness, communicate your vision of an ideal role, and grant the team the opportunity to decide if time will be well spent for both parties by continuing the conversations.

If the team ask straight up what your weaknesses are, tackle them head on as Neha shared, then make a clear distinction between your strengths and weaknesses to support the team's thinking process.

 

Conflicting answers

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses is more than showing authenticity; it demands an internal honesty that extends to both you and the organisation, revealing your genuine aspirations for a career transition.

Neha explains that prospective employees frequently generate conflicting responses as they delve deeper into the details of a given opportunity. Rather than embracing their true desires, they sometimes try to present a more appealing facade to progress through the selection process.

All these facets are interconnected, and while it might seem repetitive, the thread that binds them is the absence of a clear understanding of your own goals, your potential contributions, and an unwavering alignment with environments where you can truly thrive. Without these elements, the search for the ideal long-term role will persist.

 

Not taking care of your non-verbal cues

Shifting our attention away from the broader aspects of self-awareness, let's explore non-verbal cues. Your facial expressions, body language, gestures, posture, and eye contact, among others, hold just as much significance in these types of interviews. However, these cues often fail to meet expectations it seems from our conversations.

Instances of inadequate non-verbal cues, or even worse, audible sighs during interviews, as encountered by Collette – and likely not exclusive to her – subtly hint at arrogance or even boredom. While this might not be the sole reason for concern, it does raise a cautionary flag.

Neha highlighted that some candidates seem disengaged during conversations, evident through their misaligned non-verbal cues. Their facial expressions lack authenticity, and they attempt to force emotions that should naturally arise in the interview setting.

Neha also shared a simple technique to enhance non-verbal cues: either sit in front of a mirror and respond to behaviour-based questions, allowing you to observe your expressions in real-time, or record yourself and later evaluate the footage alone or with a mentor.

Yet, the most effortless way to ensure genuine non-verbal communication in an interview is to be truly present. If the interview is remote, minimise distractions by closing applications and silencing notifications. If conducted in person, switch your phone off entirely.

 

Belittling

The last mistake that has come to light through our discussions and is particularly disheartening for someone working in the talent acquisition community is the act of belittling. Our guests have encountered this unfortunate situation at various points, often from senior members within the engineering and development communities.

Alaa shared a scenario where developers have conveyed that their expertise are too intricate to be comprehended fully during an interview with someone outside the technical team.

Should you choose to share technical insights and find your counterpart struggling to grasp them, they will undoubtedly communicate this to you. In such cases, they will then pivot the interview’s focus toward more suitable aspects. Allow them to initiate this transition.

Adopt a uniform approach to each interview; no individual holds a superior or elevated position over another. Frequently, the talent teams stand alongside you, aiming to ascertain the alignment between your aspirations and what they can provide, while also assessing how well your capabilities fit their requirements.

 

Participating in culture interviews presents a unique set of challenges. Unlike technical questions, the responses are not straightforward and lack a universal formula. However, approaching these interviews with honesty, self-awareness, and a positive attitude will go a long way in the interviewer’s mind.

 

You might encounter this advice and feel like it's nothing new, leading you to brush it aside. But if you consistently face rejections following such interviews, we strongly encourage you to pause and reconsider. Take a moment to read, reflect, and adjust. Whether it's a comprehensive review or just a quick skim, return to this article and its first part Career Advice (perituspartners.co.uk) every time you prepare for a similar interview. Even small adaptations can yield significant results in the competitive job market.

 

As always, a big thank you to our guests, Alaa ElSayed; Colette Rollin and Neha Rana, it was a true pleasure sharing time and learning from each of you.

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