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10 Questions to Uncover the Company Culture During the Interview

In: How To

Your well-being at work, as well as professional success, depends a lot on the company’s culture. As a set of official as well as unwritten rules, culture determines how things are done in the organization. The dress code, company’s mission, management style and more should be a good fit personally for you, so that you could feel comfortable and thrive in the workplace.

With this in mind, you want to evaluate the corporate culture during the interview stage to make a well-weighed choice of employment. At the same time, you hardly can ask “What’s the culture like here?”, as in this case the interviewer will tell you something you want to hear. To help you evaluate the employer’s culture broadly, our local resume writers will share a set of questions. Use them to access the elements of the company’s culture that matter to you and choose the company you’ll enjoy working for. 

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How to reveal the company’s culture: 10 questions

  1. Tell me how many months/years you’ve been working here?
    Long job tenure is a great indicator of a healthy culture, competitive pay and effective leadership. So, make sure to ask this question to the interviewers, managers and team members. If many people stick around for years, it’s a great sign. On the contrary, if everyone has been working there for a few months can indicate the whole range of problems in an organization: low pay, stressful workload and unrealistic expectations. There are exceptions from this rule, though. If the company is expanding and growing rapidly, it excuses short job tenures.
  2. How does the dress code look like?
    Apart from understanding whether you need to update your wardrobe, the question about the dress code can provide you with plenty of other insights. For instance, companies with business professional dress code – no bright colors or open toes – typically have a strict hierarchy and are more conservative in all aspects of their work. The employers who allow a casual dress code are less conventional so you could expect a more laid-back culture. Thus, a dress code helps you evaluate the culture type and understand whether it’s a good fit for you.
  3. How many hours do the company’s owners or leaders spend in the office?
    If you apply to a small or mid-sized company, this question is absolutely crucial. It shows whether the people who set the vision and strategic direction for the company are involved in the work processes. Simply put, if the company’s leader spends a lot of time with employees, it means that the informed decisions will be made rapidly and things will be done timely. The CEOs who are always present in the office typically are more open to ideas and suggestions from employees. Also note that the leaders set the example for work-life balance. In other words, if the leader spends late nights in the office, most employees are expected to follow their example.
  4. What do the people in my department do at lunchtime?
    This question indicates the quality of interactions between your prospective colleagues. Do they gather and head to the café nearby to have lunch and socialize or does everyone have lunch on their own in front of their computer? Do they ever have time for lunch or are they so overwhelmed with work that they hardly make time for a cup of coffee? Does the team spend lots of time together or everyone prefer being on their own? A simple question about lunch will throw light on the relationship in a team, so you could know if you would feel comfortable and keep yourself inspired in such an environment. Thus, you won’t have to update your resume in a few months to look for a new job because of unhealthy relationships in the office.
  5. How is the success measured and who determines the metrics?
    Understanding the expectations and metrics you should meet are necessary to succeed in a new role. If the requirements are vague or unrealistic, problems and conflicts are inevitable. Ask the interviewer to clarify how the success looks like in the position and what you are expected to accomplish in three and six months. Question who sets these metrics and if they are negotiable. If the position is new, chances are that the person who set those expectations didn’t have a big picture. Don’t accept an offer without clarifying the expectations if you want to work in a positive culture and have a healthy work-life balance.
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  6. What was the biggest success recently and was it celebrated?
    One of the signs of the company that cares for employees is recognizing and celebrating successes. So, ask the interviewer about the most recent accomplishment of their department or the organization in general, and wonder how the company celebrated it. Did they give their employees a day off, a bonus, organize an office party or limited the celebration to a thank you email? Whatever the response is, it will help you understand whether the company appreciates its employees and what kind of incentive you can expect for great work.
  7. How are the conflicts typically resolved?
    When the personalities and interests clash in the workplace, conflicts are inevitable. What is really important is the company’s policy regarding conflicts. What is their typical approach to handling conflict situations? Do the leaders encourage conflicts as a source of new ideas or stick to the policy of avoiding them? The latter might lead to resentment and cumulated stress. You might want to ask about the specific example of workplace conflict and how they addressed it. Consider the answer and think carefully about whether you will feel comfortable with this method of handling disputes.
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  8. What would you change about the organization if you had an opportunity?
    The purpose of this question is to reveal the interviewer’s attitude towards the employer, as well as the general level of employee engagement and satisfaction. Does the hiring person mention something insignificant or touches upon the fundamentals such as leadership style, work-life balance, or compensation? This question is a perfect chance to hear about the ‘red flags’ indicating that the employer doesn’t have a healthy corporate culture, or their internal culture isn’t the right fit for you. If the interviewer says they are happy with everything, it should warn you as well.
  9. Does the company give opportunities for learning and career development?
    Asking about educational pursuits and trainings is also a great way to uncover company culture during the interview. Clarify what kinds of ongoing education and professional development the company has to offer. Is there a steady career progression track? Do they compensate for degrees, trainings, and professional certifications? Does the company organize regular in-house trainings to provide their staff with cutting-edge knowledge and practices? Are there any conferences and mentorship programs? These questions will show you if the company develops employees and invests in their growth. Also, it will help you evaluate your own chances of growing professionally and building a career there.
  10. How many employees in your company work remotely?
    Remote work and flexible schedules are on the rise, so this question makes perfect sense. In an effort to retain the best employees, companies offer various work options for better work-life balance. However, you don’t want to be straightforward and ask about remote work opportunities right off the bat. It’s better to politely inquire if they ever offer these opportunities to their current employees. If they don’t, there are little chances that you’ll manage to arrange for a flexible schedule or remote work. And if your question is met with enthusiasm, it means that the company is likely to be open to discussing teleworking options.

The interview is meant not only for evaluating you as a candidate – you should evaluate the potential employer either. Asking the above questions will help you get a sense of their culture and attitude towards the employees and choose the employer you’ll feel comfortable and motivated to work for.

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