Culture interviews – 3 common questions in English interviews

Today we are going to provide you with 3 practical tips for English job interviews. Many people falter at the interview stage even after they have been impressed with their resume and technical skills. We want you to feel confident going into the interview, so we’ve prepared today’s lesson which will go beyond “tell me about yourself” and use 3 questions to explain 3 simple yet powerful tips!

For those of you who enjoy reading on paper/e-readers, feel free to download this short ebook!

How to pass culture interview questisons.pdf
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The 3 questions we will practice with today are:

  1. Why do you want to work here?
  2. What are you most proud of in your work history?
  3. How do you deal with a specific situation?

After each question, we’ll present a bad and a good answer.

After each answer, we’ll provide a quick critique.

Finally, we’ll highlight 1 practical tip for each question, and some vocabulary, phrases, and sentence structures that you can use immediately in your interview.

Question 1: “Why do you want to work at our company?”

Let’s first hear an ill-prepared response:

Bad example

I know you are hiring a lot of engineers recently. It seems like a great place with interesting technical problems. I like problem solving, so here I come.

Critique

The candidate hasn’t done his research about the company, so his answer is very general about why he wants to work there and what he has to contribute. He fails to mention specifics about that company or use language specific to that industry

Good example

I like that you deal with some of the most technical problems in machine learning. I was talking with my friend Tony the other day, who is part of your engineering team, and was impressed by all the interesting tools he got to play within in natural language processing. I look forward to growing with the company and exploring the frontier of NLP problems.

Critique

Shows he has done his research about the company, impresses with detailed specifics and uses language specific to that industry. He knows what this company prides itself in, what technology they’re using and shows that he is familiar with what the role entails. This answer is sure to make a better impression.

Practical tip 1: Know the role

When you apply for a company, do your research on

  • What’s the company culture like
  • What problems they face
  • What accomplishment they’ve made
  • Who their customers are
  • What their organizational structure is like
  • What technology/methodology they use

Doing research can help you answer a few other questions too like:

  • Why do you want to work as X?
  • What are you main considerations when choosing a company?

Useful language tips:

  • … company is an Industry leader in … and offers great mentorship opportunities around …
  • This startup is scrappy and rewards risk-taking. I heard from a friend (insert example)
  • I’m particularly impressed by your mission of (insert mission), and (that mission) has always been an important part of my professional development

Question 2 : “What are you most proud of?”

Bad example

I’m most proud that my team pushed most features out last year. We worked really hard to understand customer needs and simplify the problem whenever we can. I feel very proud that we are the most productive team

Critique

This answer didn’t seem too bad at first glance but failed to address specific traits of the candidate themselves. What did he/she do that contributed to the team’s productivity?

Good example

I take the most pride in organizing a weekly peer learning session among the engineers in my department. Each engineer used to all build different features individually, and sometimes we would end up building a component that had already been built before. The individualistic nature of our work hampered our productivity. Since I launched the peer learning session, everybody can share the tools they used and more importantly reusable modules they have built. This learning session has become one of the most liked meetings in my team, and has largely contributed to us becoming the most productive engineer team in the company.

Practical tip 2: Know yourself

We all have different personalities, working styles, and job histories. Before each job interview, spend some time thinking about what’s most interesting about you in relation to the job you are applying for.

Here are just a few possibilities to help you brainstorm, and we’ve embedded our language tips in bold. You could use those expressions on an interview if they apply to you.

Language tips (and possible strengths of yours):

  • You are very data driven and figured out a solution that seems counter-intuitive
  • You are customer centric, built relationships, and secured an important client
  • You are very good at coordinating a team with diverse backgrounds and opinions, and achieved success that nobody could pull off individually

Question 3: How do you deal with Situation X?

‘X’ here can be a number of different situations, but our answers to this question follow the same principle. We’ll start with a concrete example.

“Our company is expanding rapidly and is constantly evolving to meet market demands. How well do you handle change?”

Bad example

I think it’s great that the company is growing fast. It makes working here more fun. I would rather work at a fast paced place.

Critique

This response is too short and general. The candidate needs to include specific examples that highlight his strengths.

Good example

I love a fast-paced working environment, and think that it pushes me to grow faster as well. Previously I was working with an ad agency to manage their in house experimentation systems. The system was designed to only support 1 variant at a time. As the company grew, I noticed that we got more and bigger customers that requested multi-variant experimentations through customer interviews and in-bound requests. While it was challenging to build such a complex system with automatic reporting, I understood that it was a necessary step to unlock the next level of growth, so I re-prioritized our feature requests and put together a convincing demo with my team. That demo ultimately paved way for a few multi-million dollar deals.

Critique

The candidate did 3 things really well. I encourage you to follow the same pattern when answering situational questions like this.

A. Identifies a situation he has experienced that relates to the question

B. explains what action he took

C. explains what he accomplished or learned from that experience.

Practical tip 3: Tell a story

One way to stand out with your answer is provide a story arc in your response. Make sure you cover the situation, action, and result in your response to a situational question.

The same story telling method can be applied to numerous other questions like

  • How do you deal with critical feedback?
  • What do you do when you disagree with your boss?
  • As in our sample, how do you deal with change?

Language tips:

  • Previously When I was working with…I noticed that… (situation)
  • While it was challenging to implement …, I spearheaded … (action)
  • That experience/development ultimately paved way for … (result)

Bringing everything together

Remember to do your research on the company and know the role you’re applying for. Know yourself and your strengths and how they fill a need in that role. And tell a story when asked a situational question The best case scenario is when you are able to use the role, your personal strengths, and the story you tell all complement each other.

Of course, it takes practice to deliver these answers smoothly and confidently, so if you would like some help crafting and practicing your interview answers, book a Magoosh English Speaking class today and we’d be happy to help you out.

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