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12 situational interview questions to assess culture fit & what to look for

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Danielle Freedland

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6 minute read


Is it possible to grasp the inner workings of someone's brain in a quick interview? Can you truly understand what makes them tick? One solution is to add situational interview questions into the mix. You can gauge how someone might react in specific circumstances or learn how they’ve handled similar situations in the past. This will help uncover a candidate's true motivations and behaviours.

On top of that, millennials continue to make up one of the largest segments in the workplace and have placed high importance on organizational culture. It’s now essential that the candidate embodies your organization's mission, vision, and values.

So what's the next step after you’ve carefully crafted a job description and found some amazing candidates? Begin with applying these 12 essential situational interview questions to assess culture fit!


1. Describe what your ideal workday would look like.


The underlying message here will allow you to distinguish what your candidate values on a day to day basis. Do they crave routine? Desire creative freedom? With this, you’ll learn what they prioritize and are aspiring to achieve (and whether it aligns with the role, the department, and the organization).

2. Tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work and how you handled it.


Gain a deeper look at how they address their mistakes in the workplace and explore their decision-making process. An ideal candidate explains a situation where they haven’t pointed fingers and owns up to their mistakes. You can assess whether or not their behaviour fits well with what your organization values.

3. Describe a time when you went above and beyond your job requirements.


Will the candidate go beyond their role expectations or do just as they’re told? Depending on your organization and position, specific traits within these answers provide insight on if they’d be a good fit or not.

4. Describe a time where your team resisted an idea you introduced. How did you address this?


This question leaves room for the candidate to illustrate respect and awareness for their team’s opinions while proving their ability to pitch unusual ideas. Will this candidate become discouraged or upset when an idea is shot down or will they come swinging back to convince you otherwise?

5. How do you like to be managed? Define your ideal management style.


Depending on the answer, you can determine whether or not they’ll mesh well with the department’s management style. Do they excel at working independently or need lots of direction? Strong work relationships are valuable, so continue to strengthen the team’s dynamic by finding a great culture fit.

6. When you look ahead at your career in [insert career], what outcomes are you hoping for in terms of the role, autonomy, and earnings?


Look to see if you’re able to offer them the support that’ll meet these goals. You’ll also want to examine if their goals will continue to support your business.

7. What motivates you to build a career in [insert career]?


It’s important to learn why they’re here today and if it resonates with your organization's culture. The answer can reveal what energizes, motivates and inspires them about the role and your organization. You’ll also highlight if they’re pursuing the role for sustainable reasons. Are they truly passionate about this role or did they show up for the lack of a better option?

8. In the past, were there certain times of year that required you to work longer hours and others that were quieter? If so, how did you manage the workflow and peak hours?


With this, you can examine the candidate attitudes towards different workflows. Companies sporting a "get it done" culture will want to see if the candidate fits in with the lifestyle. As for organization with a strong "work-life balance" culture, they’ll want to see if they’d throw the balance off.

9. How do you like to be given feedback?


Learn what approach motivates them the most and how it aligns with your organization's operations. Ask yourself if their answer fits within the trend of providing real-time feedback? Would this be someone you’d have to coach?

10. Can you tell us about any productive relationships or mentors that you've had? Why do you think these relationships worked so well for you?


Mentors play an influential role in people’s lives and their career development. With this question, discover what they respond well to and who they aspire to be. Asking this question can further indicate their commitment to their chosen career path.

11. Was there a time where you had to work with a difficult manager or coworker? How did you handle this?


This will shine light on how well they can be a team player and get along with anyone in the workplace. Their tone, attitude, and positive outlook when answering this question will say it all.

12. Tell me about a time where a situation was stressful at work and what did you do to cope?


This is the moment for them to identify personal growth. Look for their ability to react constructively rather than succumb to any of their pressures. When someone isn’t able to handle stress, you risk them bringing down your organization's morale. Learn if they’re the right fit to work within the pressures of your environment.


Want a copy of the questions?


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Danielle Freedland
Danielle is a Content Marketer at Humi who is skilled at drawing. Some may say she’s a professional doodler.


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