7 Questions to Ask to Help Gauge Company Culture

Posted by Jessica LaFountain

While most professionals have been working remotely for more than a year, it’s likely those aiming to make a career move are facing a fully remote interview process for the first time. In this new virtual journey, candidates must reevaluate how to make a positive, lasting impression, while also determining whether a position and company are a good culture fit. Without the ability to physically visit an office and experience its energy and employee interactions first-hand, how can prospective hires effectively gauge company culture?

2021.04-7 Questions to Ask to Help Gauge Company Culture-02Outside of job responsibilities and day-to-day tasks, your success and overall satisfaction with a new role is also dependent on factors such as manager and co-worker relationships, available support, empathy, and opportunities for growth and development. Even though the interview process may take place through a screen, asking strategic questions and being aware of non-verbal cues can provide a more realistic view of what it would be like to work for an organization. The interview is a two-way street, and it is your chance to make sure your values and expectations around culture align with the company’s. If you are currently looking for a new role, here are a few questions to ask throughout the interview process to gain insight on a company’s culture.

2021.04-7 Questions to Ask to Help Gauge Company Culture-04What are examples of ways your company values are demonstrated on a regular basis?
Why Ask It? Your pre-interview research should include reviewing a company’s mission, vision and values. Yet, while it’s easy to put something on paper, how these values are demonstrated outwardly can be much more telling. In what ways would the responsibilities and expectations of your potential role reflect these values? How does leadership instill these values within the organization?

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How have your views on flexible work arrangements evolved in light of the pandemic?
Why Ask It? Most companies have shifted their outlook on flexible work arrangements in the past year and 75% of professionals would give up at least one other benefit to have flexibility around where they work. While this shouldn’t be the first area you discuss in an interview, it is a valid topic and vital for accurate expectation-setting. In addition to understanding boundaries in hours and location, the response to this question can provide insight into ways the company has supported and adapted to the shifting needs of its employees.

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How does your team (and organization) celebrate success?
2021.04-7 Questions to Ask to Help Gauge Company Culture-03Why Ask It? Celebrating company, team and individual wins is a key factor in maintaining an engaged and vibrant workforce. Do your potential teammates acknowledge the successes of their colleagues? Does the company celebrate its employees’ contributions toward reaching enterprise-wide goals? In what ways do managers and teammates show their appreciation for a job well done? This insight can help you better understand the value an organization places on its employees and their contributions. Additionally, you can gauge the company’s ability to adapt and transform these programs for the virtual environment.

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How has your company dealt with and moved on from failure?
Why Ask It? Failure is inevitable, but how company and team leaders manage and work through failure reflects on their management styles and overall resilience. Asking questions around failure will help uncover how teams learn from past lessons and incorporate changes to more effectively move forward. Additionally, this can provide a glimpse into how leaders reengage individuals and boost morale following challenges and setbacks.

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How is feedback typically given and received?
Why Ask It? Different teams and managers often have varying approaches to feedback. By inquiring about the frequency and nature of these conversations, you can better understand what to expect as a future employee. Is feedback given and received freely, and in a constructive and supportive way? Or, is it less dynamic and saved for annual reviews? Frequent and direct feedback provides ongoing opportunities for employees to do their jobs better and become more confident in their skills. At the same time, recognize whether managers actively seek input from their employees to better tailor their own approach and effectiveness.

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In what ways have you prioritized DEI?
Why Ask It? A strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is more important than ever. Yet, while many companies value DEI, they haven’t invested in the framework and leadership necessary to impact change. Asking questions around what organizations have already done to ensure an inclusive and equitable workplace, as well as their next steps and aspirations, can provide valuable insight into their long-term vision.

2021.04-7 Questions to Ask to Help Gauge Company Culture-04How does your company support professional development and career growth?
Why Ask It? The possibility of a new role may seem exciting; however, it’s important to also consider where you want to be in one, five and 10 years. Is the organization prepared to provide support as you advance in your career? Do they currently assist with additional training, applicable courses or continuing education opportunities? Are there formal mentorship programs you may be able to participate in? Consider the potential for ongoing growth with the company and how development is woven into its culture.

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While these and similar questions can provide valuable insight, also pay attention to the actual interview process and any red flags:

  • Are the job description and responsibilities consistent throughout your interview process?
  • Do the hiring manager and other individuals you speak with seem happy to be there? Are they energetic and positive when talking about their company and team?
  • Are you receiving the interviewer’s full attention? Emergencies and interruptions come up; however, if the interviewer is continually checking email or looking at their phone, it can be telling to the amount of attention and support you would receive as a new hire.
  • Has the interview process been organized? Have you received clear and timely information outlining next steps?

Even the most well-planned interviews may have bumps, but if the answer is “no” to any of these questions, consider whether it is an ongoing theme and cause for concern. How a company treats its candidates is typically reflective of how it treats its employees.

While the interview process has dramatically changed over the past year, cultural fit remains vital for job satisfaction. By asking the right questions, you can ensure a potential employer aligns with your values and aspirations. As you embark on a remote job search, you may also be interested in our recent posts on contributing to company culture remotely and continuing your job search remotely.