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Ask These 10 Questions about a Company's Culture During an Interview

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When you sit down for a job interview, keep in mind that it's your chance to dig up as much as you can about the company while they do the same to you. It's your chance to get an in-person account of the company's, structure, attitude, and style. Essentially, it's your best opportunity to scope out their culture and determine if it's the right fit for you. Check out these 10 questions you should ask about the company's culture during an interview, collected from Fast Company and The Ladders.

1. For this role, what's the difference between a good employee and a fantastic one?

This question serves two purposes: it shows that you're interested in excelling at your job, and it will help you identify what the company is looking for in an ideal employee. Rarely do companies want to hire someone who will simply coast. This is a simple way to display enthusiasm and learn where the bar for success is set. 

2. If you were giving a public tour of the company, which stops would be absolute must-sees?

A company's office can reveal telling information about what it's like to work there, and the interviewer's answer will be just as revealing. Do they guide you towards the active and thriving work areas, or do they mention shallow, flashy aspects of the office like a nice statue or art display? Pay attention to how seriously they take the question, and how they form their answer. Companies with something to be proud of won't have a problem talking about how their office reflects their accomplishments.

3. What's the best part of working for this company that can't be seen in a tour?

The inside of an office can only show so much. Asking this question shows that you're interested in more than presentation. Measure how you interviewer responds to this question. Does their answer seem genuine? Does it take a moment for them to answer you? Do they actually answer the question or brush it off with a joke?

4. How does the role contribute to the company's mission and success?

This question shows off your interest in the position and the company at large; displaying interest in how you contribute to the greater whole demonstrates an air of accountability. The interviewer's response will also tell you how much the company values the role they're trying to fill. Even if you're applying to a lower-end position, the interviewer should be able to identify fairly quickly how the job supports the company. It may be a red flag if they struggle with the question.

5. How do you onboard employees and how are beginner mistakes handled?

Does the company support new employees? The interviewer should be able to tell you about the onboarding process and how rookie mistakes are handled. Do you need to work for a company that prioritizes professional growth of its employees, or can you handle being given absolute responsibility right off the bat?

6. How does the company focus on team development?

All companies require teamwork, so it's important to work for one that fosters communication and synergy. If the company doesn't value either of these, the interviewer will have a tougher time answering the question. Even if you prefer to operate with minimal interaction, poor teamwork can lead to miscommunication or, worse, outright conflict.

7. What are your favorite and least favorite aspects about working here?

This question might catch the interviewer off guard, but it will demonstrate your interest and reveal important information. It should be relatively easy for the interviewer to talk about their favorite part of working at the company, so any sign of hesitation or misdirection should be considered a red flag. Talking about something they don't like might be a bit more difficult. It might seem like an awkward question, but remember that often interviewers will ask you about your weaknesses. Is their answer genuine, or are they trying to force a positive to sound like a negative?

8. What are the top reasons employees like working for you?

This question will, hopefully, get the interviewer to reveal a bit about their management style. Don't worry if they take extra time to respond; many people find self-praise difficult to articulate, especially in a business situation. But, they should eventually be able to produce a few solid reasons why people like working for them. Does the answer sound false or shallow, or is it genuine? Does the interviewer seem to value the same work principles that you do?

9. How would you describe your company's culture in three words?

If you really want to know about the company's culture, why not ask about it directly? This question will challenge the interviewer without directly attacking them. You as a candidate will appear more interested in the company by asking this, but it also forces them to consider what the company culture is like and how to best represent it. This is another opportunity to pick out inconsistencies in their response or other dodgy behavior.

10. What are some of the most common complaints employees make about the company's culture?

This question is another way to force the interviewer to constructively handle a potentially damaging remark about their own company. How frank is the interviewer in their response? Do they lie or wave off the question entirely? Do they try to force a positive remark to sound negative? Everyone has different requirements for honesty and openness in the workplace, and this question will help you gauge how well the prospective company suits your needs.

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