25 Questions That Help Uncover a Company’s Culture

Define CultureYou are entering a job interview feeling more nervous than a dog in a room full of rocking chairs.

You usually do a good job answering the recruiter’s questions, but draw blanks as soon as they get to the end and ask, “Any questions for us?”

In your mind you are thinking, “of course I do”…

  • Do employees like working here?
  • Are they treated well?
  • Do they actually look forward to coming to work?
  • I think I’ll be happy just to have a job, but how do I know you are the right fit for me culturally?

And as quickly as you think up these questions you reply, “No, your site did a good job answering everything I was wondering.”

You feel trapped. You want to know what the company’s culture is and what really goes on inside a worker’s mind in this environment, but you feel you really can’t ask a recruiter these questions without coming off as prying, dispassionate, or skeptical.

So you pray the smiling faces on their site aren’t fake and that you’ll end up fitting in like a glove… Only to find out two weeks later your boss is an egotistical suit monkey and your coworkers make calls while keeping Monster.com open in the background.

Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 25 questions you can ask to uncover the true nature of a company’s culture… and determine if they are the right company for you (while impressing the recruiter!):

  1. How much do you work with your colleagues?
  2. What team accomplishments make you proud?
  3. Are there special activities to promote teamwork?
  4. Who in the company do you spend time with outside of work? What do you do?
  5. Who in the company do you expect to be part of your professional network over time?
  6. Who are your mentors? Do leaders continuously engage with you or coach you?
  7. Do employees tend to know what’s going on with the company, excluding confidential issues?
  8. Do people say what they think? Are the comfortable sharing their opinions even if others are offended?
  9. Are people careful about what they say and how they say it?
  10. How would I be successful here?
  11. What determines performance evaluations?
  12. How is feedback communicated?
  13. Do supervisors have an open-door policy?
  14. What are your day-to-day policies on things like dress code, remote work, flexible work hours.
  15. If you could describe your corporate culture in three words what would you say?
  16. If you were giving a tour of the office, what stops would you make?
  17. If the local paper were running a four-page article about your company’s culture, what would be impossible not to include?
  18. What’s the best part about working in this environment that I won’t be able to see from just a walk around the office?
  19. Can I speak with one of your new hires? A company veteran?
  20. What is something an employee might do here that would be perceived as violating the company’s culture?
  21. What are a couple of misconceptions people have about the company?
  22. Can you give me some examples how employees here show work life balance?
  23. What kinds of professional development do employees have access to?
  24. What kinds of people excel here?
  25. What kind of rewards other than a paycheck does the company provide?

The last thing you want to do is turn your interview into an interrogation that puts ‘Law and Order’ to shame. So ahead of time pick 3 to 4 questions that reveal the things about the company that would be the biggest deal breakers if they were way off. And remember to frame the questions in a positive light!

If you happen to have an interview on site, there is another way to answer your culture curiosity questions. Tell them, “Thanks for having me, would you mind if I could ask one of the employees who’s been here a few months a couple questions. I just want to get a better feel for what it’s like to work here.”

No matter what the interviewer tells you at this point will be valuable.

If they tell you no, that’s a major red flag. If they hesitate (past the surprise of being asked, which doesn’t happen often) you may want to assume that isn’t positive. If they say, “Of course!” …you just may have a winner.

Getting to know the real company culture isn’t that hard. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask!
 

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About the Author: Bryce Christiansen is the Marketing Coordinator for The Balanced WorkLife Company. He is a driving force in helping build the company’s presence online through the website, social media, and Web 2.0. Bryce has a dedicated background in Marketing and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU. In his free time he likes to read, watch movies, play guitar, help others, and spend time with friends and family. Connect with Bryce on Twitter!

 

Thanks to Bill Barnett, Jonathan Davis, and Lori Cappozzi for their interview question contributions.

 

 

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