Assessing Company Culture Through Interview

Of course, every company will be doing their best to sell themselves as a great place to work in an interview. However, in order to know whether a company culture is definitely right for you, you should be assessing this yourself by asking the right questions and listening to the viewpoints of people other than your interviewer.

We have a range of recommendations to help you know what signals to look for in an interview, what words to watch out for, questions you can ask and actions you can take to learn more about a company’s culture.

Here is a list of some good questions to put to your interviewer to help you delve deeper into a company’s culture and help you better assess their values, working environment and organisational politics:

Questions

Values and culture:

  • What makes you proud to work at this company?
  • What would you tell a friend about your organisation if he or she was about to start working here?
  • What is the one thing you would most like to change about this organization?
  • How does the organization support your professional development?
  • Is risk-taking encouraged, and what happens when people fail?
  • What role do company values play in hiring and performance reviews?
  • Would you describe this as work-hard/play-hard environment, or is it acceptable to excuse yourself when you want and be free to socialise when you want

Working environment:

  • How is success celebrated?
  • How do managers support and motivate teams?
  • Is there flexible working?
  • Independent or process dominated working environment?
  • Would you say you get to work with autonomy?

Organisational politics

  • How is conflict resolved and what often causes conflict?
  • How would you describe the working relationships within my potential team?

Actions & what to watch out for

  • Ask to speak to someone of your level in the company: (e.g. if you’re applying for a Managerial role, ask to speak to a current Manager and ask them what the culture is really like.) This will give more honest, first-hand knowledge about the role you are applying for and their experiences will help you better gauge whether you feel you will enjoy the role.
  • Ask for a tour of the office:
    • Watch out for people’s emotions, how do employees interact with one another? These are a good indicator of people’s values. Do people seem engaged, excited, happy, friendly or withdrawn and unhappy? This should tell you if people enjoy their working environment – a severe lack of energy in an office can indicate a lot of things, from a lack of career motivation (perhaps a lack of career progression available in the company) to lacking motivation due to rigid working hours or over micromanagement. People’s attitudes and behaviours are key to assessing the enjoyment of a workplace.
    • Are there things displayed on walls to motivate employees, is there anything in the office that demonstrates that management are make an effort to integrate their teams and promote a good team culture, e.g. break out rooms, kitchen areas, social spaces, visualisation of values and artwork to make the office brighter?
  • Ask if they carry out an employee survey: This will show you how dedicated the company is to listening to their employee voice. If they say yes, ask what changes they have made as a result of the survey; this will show you whether they act on people’s ideas or concerns.
  • Watch out for:
    • How were you greeted on arrival? Being welcomed by someone who genuinely seems to care that you’re comfortable is a good indicator of a thriving happy environment.
    • Look at people’s body language, this will speak volumes about the energy in a workplace E.g. Are people walking with purpose? Do they look happy and energised, or do they look nervous when their Manager walks by?
    • How busy is everyone? Look around and see if people appear busy; as a whole, do people look engaged or are they too busy with stacks of papers piled up on their desk? … Or does it look like nobody is working? This could indicate that business is slow and there is a lacking motivation across the office culture.

The trick to gauging company culture from an interview is to ask to meet as many relevant people as possible to firstly, ask them questions, and secondly observe their behaviour and attitudes. Ask your interviewer any questions you have around their experience in the company and ask them to introduce you to someone in the same role. This should actually work in your favour as it is not only giving you genuine insight into the working life, but also showing your dedication to learning more about their business.

We also recommend that following on from your interview you read up on the company on review sites such as Glassdoor and Google reviews. This will show you most likely people who have left the company and the reasons why they did so. This is a highly useful tool and our next blog will cover the basics of how to maximise the use of these business review platforms – so watch out for this next week!

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