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Common mistakes made in culture interviews

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Culture interviews hold significant importance in the hiring process, as they assess you based on company values and working environments. These interviews can be intimidating, but understanding common mistakes and how to avoid them can greatly enhance your chances of success.

In this article, we have gathered insights from experts in the field, including Nesrin Yuksel from Native Instruments, Pepe Monfort from MOIA, Clara Kiani from Oetker Digital, and Arpita Bagchi from MyTheresa.

Their valuable contributions will provide you with the knowledge to navigate culture interviews effectively and by the end of this article you will not only know what mistakes to avoid but also how to really stand out and what to avoid at all costs.

By learning from the experiences shared in this article, you can position yourself for success and excel in your next culture interview. So, let's delve into what mistakes persist so you can avoid them in the future.



What are we assessing in culture interviews

In order to pass a culture round, you need to first fully understand what is typically being assessed. Each company might offer a slight variant but the below will give you a strong base to focus on:

-          Value alignment based on behavioural based questions.

-          Communication style and ability.

-          Attitude as an individual (towards your work, personal life, the company).

-          Soft skills relating to the business needs.

-          Diversity and inclusion standpoint.

-          Your wants as an individual uncovered through open ended questions.

-          Authenticity of your answers and self-awareness.


To ensure adequate preparation for each culture interview, it is crucial to have an understanding of the specific areas that will be explored, so commit the above to memory or revert back whenever you need to. It's important to note that not every company will delve deeply into all these topics, and typically, a culture round may only allow for a 30-minute discussion with 2-3 questions.

Due to this, these meetings can present significant challenges for some, therefore it is advised to familiarise yourself with common mistakes that frequently occur during such interviews. By doing so, you can proactively prepare and avoid repeating these errors in the future.


Lack of Research

According to our guest experts Arpita, Clara, and Pepe, one of the top three mistakes commonly observed in culture interviews is also one of the simplest to rectify: failing to do proper research. It's a point that recruiters often stress during the preparation stage.

Arptia frequently encounters applicants who have applied for a position but struggle to recall why they were attracted to the company or articulate specific reasons. This lack of preparedness reflects a lack of care and puts candidates at a disadvantage, especially in culture-focused interviews.


This is echoed by others outside of our guest panel, making it clear that conducting research is an essential step that can easily be done right. Pepe recommends, if possible, downloading or using the target company's platform before the interview. This first-hand experience will help you gauge your interest and determine if you want to learn more about the company. Alternatively, watching videos or demos online can provide insight into the company's product or service allowing you to form a better opinion.

Clara emphasises the importance of going back to basics and conducting deep online research. Exploring the company's website, values, and social media platforms can give you a glimpse into its culture. Making notes on your findings will allow you to confidently bring up relevant information during the interview.

Failing to commit to researching the prospective business will require you to work harder throughout the rest of the meeting. However, investing just 15-20 minutes in research will provide ample time to explore, make notes, and demonstrate your knowledge during the interview.


Lacking inclusive language

Inclusivity is not merely a buzzword; it is a fundamental goal we should all strive for. While some companies have made commendable progress in fostering inclusive environments, others still have room to improve. Through research, you can identify companies that genuinely prioritise diversity and inclusion. As discussed by Nesrin, it is crucial to be mindful of the language you use during the interview if you are engaging with such a company.

This doesn't mean you have to be perfect 100% of the time—everyone may stumble occasionally. However, it is essential to be consciously aware of certain phrases that can perpetuate biases, such as the use of "guys" or exclusively male pronouns, particularly in the tech industry. Mitigating such language where possible demonstrates your commitment to inclusivity.

Remember, it is important to align with the company's culture, especially if inclusivity is a significant aspect of their values. Being mindful and inclusive in both your words and actions will help you establish a rapport and showcase your compatibility with the company's culture.


People Pleasing

In culture interviews, it is important to avoid attempting to guess what the interviewer wants to hear. Taking this approach is a sure-fire way to stumble and make mistakes. Pepe emphasised that striving to please others often leads to a lack of authenticity, and one clear indicator of this is the presence of contradictions in your answers.

Continued contradiction can arise if you struggle to provide a clear explanation of your career journey, including the reasons behind your past moves and your future aspirations, as highlighted by Clara. It is crucial to focus on establishing a genuine connection between both parties rather than forcing one that may ultimately result in a premature termination of the employment contract.

By shifting the focus towards finding the right mutual fit, you can create a solid foundation for a successful partnership, benefiting both you and the company in the long run.


Minimal Self-Awareness

Building on the importance of understanding your career journey, one of the most prevalent mistakes highlighted by our guests is the lack of self-awareness among applicants. Self-awareness manifests in various forms, but in the context of culture interviews, it involves being able to articulate your strengths, weaknesses, areas for growth, and how you can contribute to the organisation and the specific role at hand, as mentioned by Arpita.

To maintain a strong sense of self-awareness, Clara suggests (and we agree) creating a Career Roadmap. If you haven't created one before, you can refer to our article on this topic [Career Advice (]. A Career Roadmap enables you to clearly and confidently communicate your long-term growth trajectory, allowing the company to assess if it aligns with their opportunities.

By demonstrating self-awareness and presenting a well-defined Career Roadmap, you showcase your commitment to personal development and provide the company with the necessary information to evaluate how well they can support your aspirations.


Being distracted

If you've been reading this article attentively, then this particular point may not apply to you. However, if you've been skimming or multitasking while reading, it's crucial to pay close attention now. Distraction is one of the most common mistakes, especially with the shift towards predominantly online interviews.

During our conversation, Nesrin highlighted that distractions go beyond being interrupted by a Slack message or on-screen notification. It's more about the inability to recall information that has already been discussed in the interview, leading to redundant questions. While this falls under the umbrella of being distracted, it also ties into effective communication. Your capacity to actively listen, comprehend, and effectively communicate back to the interviewer not only represents you well but also helps you gather more insights about them.


Lacking questions

This brings us to the final common mistake mentioned by our guests: not asking questions. It's surprising that even in this day and age, many applicants reach the end of the interview and either ask irrelevant or no questions at all.

Asking insightful questions can easily set you apart from the competition, and it only requires a genuine interest in the company. Clara advises considering questions about the company's values beyond what was discussed in the meeting (which you can usually find on their website), as well as their leadership values (often only shared if you inquire).

Arpita emphasises the importance of not simply asking straightforward questions, but utilising your time with HR to delve into areas where they can provide unique insights. Show genuine interest and make them think, as this will make you stand out.

Pepe suggests that applicants should cultivate genuine curiosity and ask questions that might not typically be shared unless prompted.

If you need further support in this regard, feel free to download our free Interview Question Guide [Applicant Interview Questions (].


Now that we are familiar with the key areas of focus in a culture interview and have learned about the common mistakes highlighted by our guests, the question remains: how can you truly distinguish yourself in these meetings?

To make a lasting impression for all the right reasons, it's crucial to master the basics, as pointed out by Clara. This entails demonstrating your research, asking intelligent questions, showcasing self-reflection, maintaining authenticity throughout the interview, and focusing on how you can align with the company and incorporate them into your career plans, rather than simply aiming to please the interviewer.

Capture the interviewer's attention from the very beginning, Nesrin suggests practicing a concise elevator pitch where you can highlight your skills and experiences that align with the job opening.

Allow the meeting to flow like a discussion but don't hesitate to incorporate storytelling into your answers, as highlighted by Pepe. Anticipate behavioural-based questions in advance, prepare relevant examples, and practice delivering your responses. Structure your stories using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Results), ensuring the interviewer can easily follow along and understand your narrative.


To conclude this article, let's highlight the crucial mistakes that should be avoided at all costs if you wish to advance to the next round of the hiring process:


- Engaging in any form of discriminatory behaviour.

- Getting caught in a lie.

-  Speaking negatively about previous employers or colleagues.

-  Demonstrating a lack of alignment between your style, ambition, and communication with the company.

-  Providing answers or comments that are completely irrelevant to the question or conversation.

-  Allowing your ego to overshadow the meeting.


By heeding the advice of our guests and avoiding these common pitfalls, you can significantly enhance your prospects of leaving a positive and lasting impression throughout the culture interview and subsequent stages.

We extend our gratitude to Nesrin, Pepe, Clara, and Arpita for generously sharing their insights and expertise, as well as for assisting us in brining simplicity to the chaos of recruitment.  


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