How to Prepare for Cultural Fit Questions

One of the keys to mastering the in-person interview is handling Behavioral Based Interview (BBI) questions.  Sometimes BBI questions are called “situational questions,” “Targeted Selection,” or “STAR questions”.  These types of questions are most often used when companies are trying to assess if the candidate would be a Cultural Fit.

In the Pharmaceutical Industry, many are trained to interview in the BBI/Targeted Selection style.  Once this trend was recognized, a way of answering these questions was quickly developed, and that model is called the STAR model.  I’m not sure who came up with it, so I can’t give them appropriate credit.  I’m certainly not trying to take credit for the model.

STAR stands for S-Situation T-Task A-Action R-Result.  I’ve read that other interview coaches have tweaked the STAR model, and one I encourage people to use is a similar model called SOAR, S-Situation O-Obstacle A-Action R-Result.  So much of what makes us the winning candidate is not doing a task but overcoming an obstacle.  The reason this STAR/SOAR model was created was to give the interviewee an easy way to keep their answers efficient.  Remember, no one hires a rambling generalist.

Winning candidates are good storytellers and can do it succinctly.  Imagine how effective your interview would be that if for every BBI/Targeted Selection question they asked you, you could pull up a video clip of you in that situation.  Essentially by using this model you can create that video with words.  Great interviewers can create images in the interviewer's mind, and the interviewer can actually picture them in the job.

BBI/Targeted Selection Questions are most often using when trying to assess Cultural Fit. Below are some common themes on which companies base their questions. The above video goes into detail about each one.

Here is some coaching on the STAR/SOAR Model:

-S-stands for Situation.   Explain briefly the situation you were in.  Also, let the S remind you to be specific and succinct.

-T/O-stands for Task or Obstacle.  They want to know that you can handle the curveballs that are thrown at you on a daily basis.  In my experience, I don’t see many interviewers asking a bunch of task-oriented questions, and that is why I chose to take out the T and replace it with an O in most cases.  So, briefly talk about the obstacle that you were presented with, and demonstrate that you are someone who can overcome obstacles.

-A-stands for Action.   Transition into describing the action you took in overcoming the obstacle.  Again, stay brief and positive.  Remember, good storytellers get the job.  The actions of the story are what create the images in the interviews mind.  They are asking BBI questions to find out what you DO in situations.  In the action section, you are explaining what you do, so do a great job here.  Try using phrases like: “So, what I did was”, “My strategy for overcoming that was”, etc.

-R-stands for Result.  This is where you talk about the result of your action, and we are looking for a positive outcome.    This is a key part because so many candidates don’t know how to put a bow on their story and wrap it up.  Try using phrases like: “So, what happened was…”, “The result was….”,  etc.

Other keys to success in answering BBI/Targeted Selection questions:

-Keep your answer succinct

-Give only one example

-Use “I” statements.  They are not hiring your last company, so avoid saying, “We did.”  They want to hire you, so say “I did.”  Of course, this is bad advice if you're giving a team example.  

-Never use hypotheticals, like “What I would do is.”  They don’t want to hire someone who could hypothetically do this job; they will hire someone who has successfully done this job.  Finding out if that is YOU or not, is the whole reason these questions exist.

BBI/Targeted Selection Questions are most often using when trying to assess Cultural Fit. Below are some common themes on which companies base their questions.   The above video goes into detail about each one.

I hope this quick tutorial about how to use the STAR/SOAR Model to answer BBI/Targeted Selection questions has been helpful in preparing for Cultural Fit questions.  Remember to think of these stories long before the interview, so you don’t have to think so much on the fly.  If you can handle these BBI/Targeted Selection Questions by being a succinct storyteller, there is little doubt that you will be seeing an offer soon!

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