UK: "Cultural fit" for a major international bank's content arm
March 6, 2015 12:33 AM   Subscribe

Hello! I've got a second (and final) round of interviews for a content position within a major international bank in London. In this one, they'll be looking at the "cultural fit". Do you have any pointers on what they mean by that? What kind of "standard" interview questions should I prep for? Thanks for your help!
posted by almostwitty to Work & Money (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 'Cultural fit' is their way of ensuring you'll fit in with the people you'll be working with. They basically want to weed out the weirdos, assholes and slackers. It's the "could I bear to work with this person?" test.

Questions are likely to be about how you deal with people and situations, rather than about work history or qualifications.
posted by pipeski at 2:21 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do you know anything about their culture? If not, the first step is to call the HR department and ask for this info- ask questions about the culture, what it's like to work their etc. They'll be happy to share this. If it's a major bank they will probably also have a 'cultural values statement' or similar. You can usually also find this on the company website- it will usually be in the 'About Us' section, or possibly the careers section. Look for something like 'Vision and Values', or maybe the careers section.

I just had a look at Barclays' website and they have a 'Purpose and Values' section in their 'About Us' tab. their stated values are : Respect, Integrity, Service, Excellence and Stewardship, then each of these values are broken down into key actions.

So for a cultural fit interview at Barclays, they would probably ask you questions about times you demonstrated these values- e.g. 'Tell me about a time you acted with integrity', or 'tell me about a time you challenged things you believed to be wrong '.

You want to keep your answers and examples as concrete as possible- use the STAR model:
Action- what you did

For example:
S/T: AT my last position, I found out a colleague and good friend of mine was overcharging a customer.
A: I was tempted just to let it slide, but I decided to talk to him about it in a non-confrontational way.
R: It turned out it was an honest mistake and he was really embarrassed. We went to the customer and explained, and offered a refund of the full amount plus a discount. He was so impressed that he placed another large order and has been a loyal customer ever since.

You can also give an alternative action and alternative result if you learned from a mistake.

Banks often interview in this way because it's factual, rather than hypothetical, but even if they do ask more vague questions like 'what would you do if you saw a colleague acting without integrity' having an example of what you actually did do in a past situation can really make you stand out.

If you prepare two or three examples that relate to each aspect of their stated culture, you can use these to take control of the interview if necessary- e.g.. I think I would be a great fit here because of your commitment to integrity. In my last position, the focus was on results, so I brought in measures to hold people accountable for how they achieved those results.....'.

The other thing they might want to gauge is how you like to work, vs what the company/role offers. For example, if you love working with people, but the role doesn't offer many opportunities for that, or if you like to work autonomously, but the culture is driven by process and hierarchy, or if you find stretch goals horribly stressful, but the company's performance management system is geared towards giving employees difficult targets, it won't be a good fit- and it's just as much for your benefit as theirs to know this.

Cultural fit goes both ways, so ask them questions and voice concerns- for example, if the company has a stated value of innovation and that's important to you, ask if it's easy it is to get new ideas up and running, or whether there's a lot of focus on process and red tape.

Banks are always interested in performance and often have aggressive growth strategies, but because of the recent banking crises, many banks at least pay lip service to integrity/ethics. Ask how they balance these in reality?

Finally, if you can think of a way to demonstrate immediate value and impact to the culture you will definitely impress. Have a look at their strategy/culture/values, look at recent news stories or do a search on Twitter to see if you can spot trends or complaints from customers, and suggest a way to approach a business issue, in line with the culture.

Good luck, hope it goes well!

Edited to add I work with international banks on their selection systems
posted by Dwardles at 2:45 AM on March 6, 2015 [8 favorites]

Best answer: In my organisation (different sector, likely different ethos to banking), the cultural fit part of interviews are about values and behaviours - we ask questions based around our company values with the aim of figuring out how someone is likely to behave in a given situation, and whether that's aligned with our values or not.

"Cultural fit" tends to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but it tends to boil down to "do we think that the way you are will work well with the way our organisation is" - sometimes that's the way my place does it, based on values, and sometimes it's more blatantly in-group based: does this person appear to be sufficiently like us?

In terms of preparation, probably the best thing you can do is try to get a feel for their employer brand. How do they position themselves on the recruitment part of their website? Are there any particular qualities, values or characteristics that they seem to espouse? Do they have profiles for current staff members - if so, what do those people say about who they are and how they work? Does anyone who works there blog about working there? What do the people in the pictures on their website look like? Bear in mind that this is what they aspire to, and that there might be a gap in reality - be prepared to explore this gap in the interview.

Depending on how much they've got out there, you should be able to begin to build up a picture of who they are as an organisation and what they're likely to be looking for.

Now think about you, and specifically how you work and behave (as opposed to what you do, which will have been covered in the more traditional skill-based interview). How do you like to be managed? How do you like to organise your work? What working environments have you thrived in, what ones have you struggled in, and why? What features of those organisations made you more or less likely to do well and feel good? What kinds of organisational constraints help you work and what constraints demotivate you or make it harder for you to do your job? A lot of this stuff is wildly different for different people. It's really useful for you to go into this with a good idea of who you are and what works well for you.

It may become somewhat obvious what they're trying to elicit based on the style of their questioning - organisational culture can create a slightly blinding "our way is best" mentality, so they might, unless they're smart and on it, be more likely to ask leading questions in this interview to try and find out if you're going to be right from them. If this happens, use it to your advantage to add to the picture you have of what their working culture is like.

Finally, ask them as many questions as you can about what it's like to work there. The cultural interview is as much a way for you to work out if it's a company where you're going to get on well and be happy as it is a way for them to figure out if you're a good fit. It's the most two-directional part of the process - you're interviewing them too - and thus it's worth digging around for more information if anything you've found out about the way they work concerns you. If you get the job, you'll be spending a huge chunk of your life there - think of this as due diligence for your own happiness and time investment.
posted by terretu at 2:53 AM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Some companies are also moving to using a set of techniques called values based interviewing where they identify a value (usually readily available on their website) and ask questions designed to elicit demonstration of whether the person really follows that value.

So they might ask a question about a situation where you've had a conflict with someone, but instead of looking at your explanation of how you dealt with the conflict, they might be marking you on whether you demonstrated respect for the other people involved and they might question you in depth about how you felt about how you reacted and what you might change if it happened again.

I was really skeptical about these techniques but actually having interviewed new applicants and people I knew well, the questions did a surprising job at getting right to their strengths and weaknesses without asking them about them directly.

I'm not sure they're easy to prepare for apart from making sure you know what the organisations stated values are.
posted by kadia_a at 3:44 AM on March 6, 2015

Best answer: The above advice is awesome, but something to keep in mind is that screening for cultural fit benefits you as much as them. You are going to find out if you mesh with their work culture - and if you don't, and you get hired anyway, everyone will be miserable. Don't just adjust your own values to mirror what you have found company values to be, this does everyone a disservice. When I do screenings for cultural fit, I have two favorite questions.

The first is what the candidates does in his or her free time. I don't actually care what the thing is, unless it's really offputting, but I can tell by the way they describe it what kind of enthusiasm they exhibit for things they genuinely enjoy. This gives me a sense of what motivates a person, how they handle work-life balance, and an opportunity to ask some questions that are well within a candidates' comfort zone, since most other interview questions are not. Think about your hobbies, and pick one or two to have ready to discuss. As a hiring manager, I do not care if your hobby is volunteering at the local planetarium or woodworking, as long as you can show genuine enthusiasm. Hobbies that have not gone over well with me are "playing on the internet" and "mentoring, you know, poor kids."

The second is the how-do-you-communicate question. I like to ask about the big three - in person, email, and phone, and ask a candidate which they prefer and why. Then I go in a bit deeper to ask about when each one might be the best way to communicate, a time when they chose the wrong one and what they learned, etc. You'll get a sense right away which one the office tends to use, but seriously, if you're an in-person communicator, followed by phone, and avoid email in an office culture that uses email for almost everything, no one is going to be happy.
posted by juniperesque at 6:25 AM on March 6, 2015

Agree with juniperesque - hiring is a two-way street. Ask questions about their culture to see if it's the type of place *you* want to work.
posted by radioamy at 10:18 AM on March 6, 2015

Best answer: My husband used to work for a major international bank in London. According to him, the culture was all about working all hours, aggressive ambition for promotion, caring deeply about money and status, and partying hard at the pub in the five minutes per day you do have free. People were generally proud of those things. He was not a good cultural fit, so his experience might be tinged with a bit of bitterness. But he thinks this interview might be about scoping out and weeding out anyone who believes in the concept of work-life balance.
posted by lollusc at 3:02 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone :D
posted by almostwitty at 7:06 AM on March 9, 2015

« Older I'd like suggestions for a CBT therapist in...   |   Pain in proximal tendon area of vastus medialis Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.