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Interview Questions that Reveal Company Culture

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Interview questions reveal a lot about a company’s culture. How can you know if a company you are interviewing with has the right culture fit for you?

I was recently asked if there were any interview questions an interviewee might ask when applying for a job that would help determine the culture fit of a company. Often we still believe that the control of an interview lies with the company representative. We are focused on making a good impression and demonstrating our ability to be the best candidate that we overlook this opportunity to learn more about the company. At the end of the interview when we are asked if we have questions, if we aren’t prepared, we will miss out on a golden opportunity to learn more about the job, the expectations, and the company culture.

Remember: an interview is not just for the company’s benefit, but also serves as a chance for you to see if it is the right place for you. One of the ways you can determine that is by asking open-ended questions that will uncover more information about the focus on diversity, the opportunity for growth and advancement and the culture of the environment.

Here are some suggested interview questions you can ask to determine the culture fit:

  • How do you cultivate employee engagement within your teams besides during office meetings?
  • Can you share an example of how a new employee has directly contributed to a project or company initiative?
  • How does the organization train their first line managers to be effective leaders? (since most people leave their managers, not companies)
  • What are the most effective ways to participate in group meetings within your team? 
  • Can you share the diversity dynamics of your current team members?

Interested in a male perspective? Mike Simpson of the Interview Guys offers up 14 questions you can ask in an interview. There are several areas of questions to ask that Mike discusses, three of which will help determine culture fit:

THE COMPANY

By the way, who are you actually working for?  Not just your supervisor, but the company overall.  Yes, you should already have a good base of knowledge…you got that information during your fact-finding and research phase of the job hunt…but there are things you can’t get from research that can only come from someone on the inside…and the hiring manager is a great resource! 

Don’t forget, no job is a final job…you’re always on the hunt for that next step in your career…and now is the time to ask if this job is going to be the next step forward for you. Speaking of moving forward, is this a job with room for growth and advancement?

THE PEOPLE

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers, you cannot be successful or happy.”– Norman Vincent Peale

How about your fellow co-workers?  What about the people that make up the roster of employees?  Who are you going to be working with?  Are you working with a team?  If so, now is the time to ask serious questions about who you’re going to be spending your time with.  The best job in the world can easily turn into the worst job if you find out you can’t stand the people you’re assigned to.

THE ATMOSPHERE

Another important consideration to keep in mind is the culture of the company you are going to work for.  What kind of place is it?  Are you going to be expected to be 100% buttoned-up and professional at all times or does the company allow a more relaxed approach to work? Is it a suit and tie sort of place or are employees allowed to be a little more casual?

Just like you prepare your answers in advance to showcase your talents and experience, you will want to research and prepare a series of questions to ask that will help determine the cultural fit of the organization for which you are interviewing. The more you find out in the interview the better prepared you will be to accept (or decline) an offer should one be forthcoming.

If You Only Ask One Interview Question

At the end of the interview, if you can only think of one question to ask, Alison Green offers a great suggestion: “How will you measure the success of the person in this position?”

Green actually offers more suggestions in her article 5 Impressive Questions to Ask the Interviewer, but I really like this one in particular. It gets to the heart of the matter. One woman I spoke to about her advancement process mentioned a version of this question that she asked in her interview. She was meeting with the VP of Stores for a promotion from field manager to Director of Operations. She asked, “In six months, how will you know you’ve hired the right person for the job?”

The answer was this: “I’ll know I’ve hired the right person when people come to her for the answers instead of coming to me.”

She was promoted and started right off by having a large container of pretzels in her office. People would come by for an afternoon snack, and she would have the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about their role in the company. At first, they came for the snack before heading to the VP, who was next door. But in just a few months, they came for the snack and stayed to talk about business.

Finding the right company and the right position requires research and preparation. Make sure you use your interview time wisely to ensure you are saying yes to the best possible position.

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JJ DiGeronimo JJ DiGeronimo, a speaker, author, and thought-leader for Women in Tech and Girls and STEM, empowers professional women and consults with senior executives on strategies to retain and attract Women in Technology to increase thought and leadership diversity within organizations.

Check out JJ’s new book Accelerate Your Impact by downloading three free chapters.accelerate your impact

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