3g. Fit questions

Are there going to be any fit questions?

There will always be fit questions in interviews. In fact, every question is like a mini fit question in disguise, because the interviewer will be gauging how you answer the question to get a feel for whether you will fit in will with the culture of the company. Yes, it’s very subjective. No, not all companies will be looking for the same thing.

For tech interviews, you should go in prepped for all the most common fit questions, even the somewhat cliche ones like “Tell me about yourself”, “What are 3 strengths and weaknesses for you?” and “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”. Tech companies, especially startups, do care a lot about cultural fit, so that means you should not just try to have good answers to the typical questions, but also think about how you can answer other questions (including product or technical interviews) in a way that communicates your good fit as well.

There are endless resources online about how to prepare for fit questions, so here are just some highlights and reminders about key points:

Try to learn about a company’s culture through research or informational interviews, then adjust your answers accordingly.

You can often get a decent sense of a company’s culture by talking to current or former employees and just explicitly asking them about it. They might give you a generic-sounding answer, but take what they say at face value and then try to read between the lines a bit. Some companies might be more collaborative than others. Some may be more engineering-focused and nerdy. Others may be competitive internally, while others may be focused on competition with other companies. Some, frankly, may have a slightly more ruthless culture that’s focused on success and individual effort. There’s no need to become a parody of the company’s culture in your answer, but just be aware of how you’re coming off to the interviewer and whether that fits in with what you know about the company culture.

Be prepared to talk about your past major projects.

You should be able to give a good overview of your biggest projects or the ones you’re most proud of. For these projects, you should be able to describe what the project’s objective was fairly concisely. You should then also highlight some major challenges you faced, whether on the product, technical, or operational fronts, and how you overcame them. Ideally you’ll be able to talk about the impact your project had. It’s fine if the project isn’t public or if you can’t share certain facts or metrics about it; just describe it in more general terms. What’s more important is that this was indeed an interesting and/or challenging project, that you successfully completed it (or are in the process of doing so) and that it’s important for the company.

Generally showing humility and curiosity is a good thing.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Very, very few companies, if any, appreciate condescending jerks. It’s fine to admit that you don’t know something, and to ask (in a genuinely curious way) for more information or context.

Think about the questions you want to ask the interviewer.

There’s almost always time at the end of the interview for you to ask questions to your interviewer. Ask some actually interesting questions! Good questions get the interviewer to talk about themselves, what they’re working on, their actual experience at the company, and new insights into the company that you didn’t know previously. Come up with some broader questions that you can start off with, like “What are the major things the company is focused on now?” or “How would you characterize your interactions with your coworkers?”, and then you can see where the conversation takes you. You should avoid asking super-generic questions that suggest you don’t know what a PM does – these can usually be reframed in a way to make it more about the interviewer as an individual or the experience at that given company. For example, instead of asking “What is a typical day like for you?” you can ask “At <company name>, which specific other functions do you work with and in what proportion?”.