Passing the Chemistry Test: How to Show Employers You’re a Good Fit

From the moment you saw the job listing, you knew that it was for you. You applied, had pre-interviews, sent work samples, and now, finally, you’ve made it to round four of the interview process. The dream job is within reach. You have the skill set, you nailed the questions about strengths and weaknesses, and now you have an interview coming up with the CEO. You’re about to get hit with the chemistry portion of the test.

This tends to throw people off their game, and for good reason.

Boasting about accomplishments is easier because you’re talking about a series of achievements – ones that have measurable, proveable results.  On the other hand, bragging about your ability to effortlessly fit into a group you’ve never worked with can feel… abstract.

It boils down to this: it feels awkward to tell people how cool you are.

Company culture is the term for the organization’s values and mission. Chemistry is less tangible. It’s the unfortunate reason people tell you to treat job interviews like a date.

The questions that you’ll be asked are ones that would normally require a bit of introspection, but you don’t have that much time. It’s in-the-moment, and it requires fast, on-the-spot answers. But there’s no need to worry and there’s no need to fake it.

You can expect questions like, “How would you handle a situation where someone proposed a bad idea in a meeting?” or even more personal questions like, “What’s something that you fear?”

Hiring managers take this part of the process very seriously, especially in tight-knit offices or with higher paying gigs. In fact, the “likeability factor” is such a determining factor that some companies even fall into the trap of regularly hiring people they view as likable interviewees, rather than most qualified. A study done by the American Psychological Association found that candidates who used ingratiation in their interviews – aka getting people to like them – were more likely to be hired than people who used self-promotion as a tactic.

Some executives use general interaction to determine which candidates to select but most use a series of questions that are personality indicators.

Here is how you can not only tackle these questions, but do so with a bit of thought behind the answers.

Do your research

If you know the company’s mantra, or their 5 key points for success, or any of the governing principles they utilize, you’ll be that much more prepared for these reflective questions.

Tip: A good place to look is the company’s website, and specifically the company’s blog. Search all the way back to their first blog post and you’re likely to find something that introduces the company or discusses their vision. You can also do a search on YouTube to see if the founders or executives have done a TED talk or check out their Instagram account to get a sense of their personalities – anything that can help you get a better understanding of how company executives and other employees think.

Stop and think

Stumped by a question? If you don’t have the answer and don’t want to appear as a deer in headlights over it, ask for a moment to think about the answer.

Tip: Let them know that you believe that the question is a deep one and requires a bit of thought. Rushing through a trainwreck of an improvised answer is much worse than a pause in conversation. If you can’t think of an answer after a few moments, ask them a follow-up question for clarity. This gives you more time and more information to work with.

Be honest

No matter how much you want the gig, acting like someone you’re not, and then getting the job as a result, is a nightmare.

Tip: If they need high-spirited, but you’re lowkey, don’t pretend to be a Peppy Pepperson. “By all means be yourself, but the best possible version of yourself,” writes Judy McGuire for MarketWatch. Researching their vibe is helpful, but shouldn’t be the thing you do to alter yourself fundamentally. This is supposed to be a dream job, remember? If there’s good chemistry, they might be cool with your needs and adjust the role accordingly. Show your actual personality, not a performance of the one you think they’re looking for.