Want to know what it’s like to work for a company before you accept an offer? You can’t exactly just ask the standard, “What’s your culture like?” and expect to get a candid answer. Besides the fact that company culture covers a whole lot of ground and summing it up in one answer isn’t totally possible, it’s more likely than not going to yield a polished, marketing-approved response.
One of our favorite definitions of culture comes from the book Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life, in which they define it as “the way we do things around here.” Culture ranges from how people dress and talk to leadership and reward structures.
So how do you uncover the corporate culture of a potential employer? The truth is that you will never really know the corporate culture until you have worked at the company for a number of months, but you can get close to it by asking specific questions during an interview. We’ve compiled our favorite questions that, while seemingly fairly straightforward on the surface, can help uncover deeper intel about the inner workings on the company. Keep these in mind the next time you’re in an interview and want to know the scoop.
How long have you been with the company?
If everyone you talk to has only been there a short time this may be a red flag. High turnover could be a sign of low pay, long hours, lack of opportunity for career advancement, or incompetent management.
How does the organization support your professional development and career growth?
If a company sees continued education as adding value to your profile this is a good indicator that they care about employee retention.
When the company is met with a challenge, is risk-taking encouraged? And what happens when people fail?
This question does a great job at revealing whether or not the company blames processes (if so, they are an organization of continuous learning) or people (if so, they may have a blame culture) when something goes wrong.
What was the last big achievement that was celebrated?
The questions gives interviewers the chance to reveal if employee efforts are acknowledged and appreciated and if people enjoy having company parties/gatherings. If they don’t do anything to celebrate it may be a thankless and cold environment.
How do you measure success and over what time frame? How are these metrics determined?
This question can give you insight into whether your potential new boss has realistic expectations with respect to what you will accomplish and by when.
What activities do you offer for employees?
If companies have outings, retreats or other social events, it can often give you a clue to how important they think it is for coworkers to LIKE on another, not just work together. As well as give you insight into whether or not your potential coworkers might be more extroverted or introverted.
Does the company give back to the community? In what ways?
If it is important that you and the company are aligned in terms of shared priorities such as corporate responsibility or giving back, then understanding their level of involvement offers important insight.
In the era of perks and employee benefits, we often get blind-sighted by the free food and on location gym facilities that employers offer and we forget to consider whether the company culture will fit us. But you can’t thrive where you don’t feel at home. And you can’t grow where you don’t feel welcome. The bottom line is that finding a company with a culture that fits you is essential to being happy, successful, productive and truly enjoying your work.