Worried About Company Culture? Ask These 5 Questions in an Interview

Of all the questions rattling around in your head during a job interview, a prime one should undoubtedly be: “Am I a good culture fit for this company?”

Rather than make assumptions (or hope for the best if you’re hired), here are some questions to ask in order to determine if a company is right for you.

”Why Do You Like Working Here?”

This seems like the most obvious question to ask, and for good reason. If your interviewer can’t quickly explain why they like working at the company, it’s a red flag.

Pay attention to body language, here. If the interviewer sits back, exhales, and looks for reasons they like their job, it’s not a good look. And if they come up with quirky answers such as, “Well, casual Friday is very casual,” that’s also not a great sign.

”How Would I Receive Feedback on My Work?”

You are the only one who knows how fragile your ego really is. Maybe peer review isn’t your thing. Maybe you prefer to work in a collaborative environment where feedback comes in micro-doses.

Or maybe you thrive on working alone and being corrected in code review settings. The feedback loop at a job is about personal and professional growth, and you should find something that works best for you.

It’s also a question many interviewers aren’t prepared for, so don’t be surprised if they need some clarification from you. It’s entirely possible they don’t really consider how feedback is provided on an individual basis, so don’t judge too harshly if this one trips them up. But take note of what they say.

”What Is The Structure of the Team I’d Be Working On?”

Another tricky one! We like this question for one really good reason: You’ll know how much red tape is involved in the job.

Think about how you like to work, and who you’re comfortable interacting with. If your team lead reports directly to a Vice President, who in turn reports to the CEO, it’s very possible the CEO will come nosing around your desk now and again.

But if there are half a dozen layers between you and the C-Suite, this could mean a ton of red tape is involved in getting things done. It also suggests the team you’re interviewing for has several managers; even if you’re interviewing for a leadership role, things can get confusing – quickly.

A flatter structure is best for getting things done in most cases, but larger corporations will have deep-rooted structures. Consider which is best for you.

”Where Can I Work From?”

Do you have to be tied to your desk? Can you work from home? If there’s no remote working option at the company, are ‘quiet’ rooms provided for those times you need to focus?

Headphones are great, but most probably don’t want to wear headphones all the time, or have to slip a set on to dig down into code. It’s far better to have a quiet space all your own, even if you have to fight for it.

The opposite can be true, as well. If half the team works from home, and you thrive on face-to-face interactions, you may be barking up the wrong tree with this particular company. How you work is just as critical as where you work.

If possible, ask to be shown the office area when the interview ends. The interviewer will likely walk you out, so taking the long way around is a good way to both show interest and see what the digs are like.

”Who Will I Be Working With?”

Another leading question!

Here, you want to know how many are on your team, and the team composition. If diversity is important to you, this is a great time to address it. Gently probing to discover how many women or non-white people are on your team (and the company at-large) is best learned by… simply asking.

The answer you initially get is also telling. If the interviewer says, “Your team is awesome; a bunch of really great guys,” it likely means less (or zero) diversity. The interviewer may also be eager to show you where your team works, and perhaps introduce you to some people.

This is also a good time to prod your interviewer about the experience of your potential teammates, and ask how they are to work with. If the interviewer hints they’re all experienced, entrenched take-no-prisoners devs, that may not play to your strengths. (You may also learn a lot from them.)

Bonus: Discover Culture Fit on Your Own

An interviewer’s job is to screen you, and place the company in the best light possible. Even if they don’t want to hire you, they’d rather you not bad-mouth them to others.

But people do say negative (or just brutally honest) things. That’s where review sites such as Glassdoor come in handy. If you’re seriously considering the job, take an evening and poke through Glassdoor reviews to see if people mention things that are important to you. Maybe there’s a ‘bro’ culture you’re not interested in, or management discourages taking time off.

We also like Blind, an anonymous chat platform for tech pros. It’s searchable by company, so you’ll have to dig through various topics, but it has threaded discussions that are illuminating (and it’s anonymous, so people tend to speak freely).

And while you’re interviewing, be observant. Do you feel comfortable in this office? Are the people pleasant? Even if you’re excited about the possibility of working there, be your own worst enemy; when it comes time to weigh the pros and cons of the job, your own observations will let you know if you’re really a culture fit for the job.

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