4 Corporate Culture Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

You’ve made it to the final round job interview, and are starting to feel hopeful. You’ve asked questions that showed your intellectual curiosity, industry awareness, and sense of humor. You’ve even elicited information about the hiring manager’s leadership style, why the vacancy exists, and how flexible the work-from-home policy really is.

So far it’s all good. You’re excited about the role, and the team seems excited, too.

There’s just one mystery remaining, and it’s a big one. What’s the organization’s culture like, and is it one you will thrive in? Or, might you be stumbling unawares into another Uber, Wells Fargo, or Fox News? Recent bombshell revelations about those organizations’ toxic workplaces remind us that company cultures—even the good ones—can be frustratingly opaque to outsiders. Nonetheless, it’s important to know whether a potential company’s values will mesh with your own. You’d like to know: Are those values evident in the actions people take every day? Would this environment support you to be the best, happiest version of your professional self? But how do you even begin to ask?

Like you, I’ve wondered: ‘What are some questions to ask during a job interview to determine whether the culture is a good fit?’ That was the question I asked panelist Tim Sieck in my recent webinar on building a high-performance culture.

It was a timely discussion, because a few months earlier, Sieck had joined Mercy Medical Center as Director of Organizational Development. His response about determining whether the culture is a good fit was eye-opening.

Don’t tell me about the culture. Tell me a story about the culture.

One of Sieck’s favorite requests during a job interview is: “Tell me a story that reflects the culture of the organization,” he says. “The answer will tell you a ton about what the culture is.” At one company Sieck interviewed with, people responded that they had a high-performance culture. To encourage them to elaborate, Sieck would ask for an example.

“I got several different versions of the line ‘We have a high-performance culture,’ but could never really get an answer that satisfied me about what that high-performance culture looked like,” recalls Sieck.

In contrast, at Mercy Medical Center, when Sieck asked about the culture known as “The Mercy Touch,” he received an actual story, concerning a client who was experiencing heartbreak and loss. Anticipating the patient’s unspoken needs, a hospital employee went to great lengths to ensure that the patient and the patient’s family were comfortable.

“None of that was required by the job,” Sieck pointed out. “But that story told me exactly what I needed to know about the organization’s culture.” It was one of the reasons he accepted the position.

Sieck also recommends asking about how the actual culture matches the stated culture, and how the culture may have changed over time. “Changing culture is an incredibly hard thing to do,” he explains. A culture that changes too frequently can be a sign that the organization is trying and struggling to reinvent itself, or that its leadership implements flavor-of-the-month changes after reading the latest leadership book.

Finally, says Sieck, ask your interviewers how they would describe the culture to someone like you. “If the culture is strong, people should be able to tell you a story and articulate exactly what that means.”

Understanding a prospective employer’s culture can be one of the toughest things to really discern during a job interview. But you can determine whether the culture would be a good fit by asking these four questions.

4 Interview Questions About Company Culture

Whether you’re interviewing for a job with a new employer, or moving to a new team with your current company, you owe it to yourself, and to them, to thoughtfully assess the cultural fit. Here are the four questions that every job-seeker should ask:

1. Tell me a story that reflects the culture of the organization.

2. How do you know your actual culture matches your stated culture?

3. Has the culture changed since you been here? If yes, how?

4. How would you describe the culture to someone like me?

Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Follow by Email
Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Follow by Email
25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

Whenever I’m asked “What are some of the best questions to ask a ...

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

25 Songs For Your Leadership Playlist

What are your all-time favorite leadership songs — the ones that make you ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a question I ask in a survey ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

9 Traits of Exceptional Leaders

Truly great leaders are hard to come by, but it seems everyone thinks ...

Dealing with a Bossy Coworker
Dealing with a Bossy Coworker

You might expect the occasional “order” or “command” from your boss. But it’s a whole

Press Release: Be Leaderly Wins Gold & Silver at the 2019 Stevie Awards
Press Release: Be Leaderly Wins Gold & Silver at the 2019 Stevie Awards

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—June 11, 2019—Be Leaderly, a globally recognized provider of women’s leadership development and

15 Questions to Ask Before Taking a Stretch Assignment
15 Questions to Ask Before Taking a Stretch Assignment

Stretch assignments are like the Instant Pot of career development. An intensely challenging, ambitious, go-big-or-go-home

How Can Pay Transparency Make a Difference for Women?
How Can Pay Transparency Make a Difference for Women?

It’s well known that women still deal with a pay gap relative to men. But

5 Things to Know About Your Coworkers with Kids
5 Things to Know About Your Coworkers with Kids

You might’ve attended a baby shower in the break room, or maybe you caught a

4 Underrated Elements of a Career Advancement Plan
4 Underrated Elements of a Career Advancement Plan

A vice president of a financial company once told me, “Make a plan—or someone else

Negotiate Through Your Next Performance Review
Negotiate Through Your Next Performance Review

With performance reviews around the corner, I wanted to write a how-to post on negotiating.

Why Companies Should Give Women More Stretch Assignments
Why Companies Should Give Women More Stretch Assignments

Landing a coveted stretch assignment is a proven shortcut to a top role. Does your

5 Ways to Shine as a High-Potential
5 Ways to Shine as a High-Potential

There’s never been a better time to develop your leadership skills. According to Deloitte’s 2014

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

On a regular old day, you’re plugging along, attending to the work tasks in front

Ask Jo: How can I thank my mentor?

Question: I have an incredible mentor. She ...

Teamwork is a Skill. It Takes Practice!

Everyone wants to lead, or be a ...

It’s Worth the Risk (I promise)

This is Sarah. She’s one of my ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a ...

Leaderly Quote: Great Leaders Know When to Step Aside

“Great leaders know when to step aside.” ...

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.

Copyright 2019, Be Leaderly