4 Corporate Culture Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

Like this on Facebook

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?

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 founding editor of BeLeaderly.com. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

Recommended

6 Secrets of Women Who Get Promoted (Slideshow)

Are you capable of more than the job you are doing today? Here are 6 things you need to know about how to get a ...

Ask an Exec: 4 Ways to Advance Your Career

“What are those gaps between expectation and performance, and how can women overcome them to advance their careers?” That’s the question I put to Kieth ...

"No" is a Complete Sentence: A Leadership Lesson from Peggy Olson

I’ll miss Peggy Olson. For me, Mad Men was all about Peggy’s remarkable career ascent from her first day in her new job as Don ...

Ready to lead?

We'll show you how!
Get email updates from Be Leaderly.

Our mission is to provide the career strategies that help you lead, climb and thrive as a rising woman of influence.

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

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

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

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

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 ...

15 Songs for Your Leadership Playlist

It was one of those conference moments I’ll never forget: Carly Fiorina had ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

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

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

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

6 Critical Missteps That Hurt Your Career Advancement

Let’s face it: it isn’t easy to break out and establish yourself as ...

4 Characteristics of Leaders Who Get Hired and Promoted

Imagine if you had the opportunity to sit down with a senior executive ...

Nine Qualities of Female Leaders Who Get Beyond the Glass Ceiling

I’m frequently asked to speak about women in law and specifically the issue ...

5 Things Women Leaders Should Stop Doing. TODAY.

Over the last couple years, I’ve had a front row seat to career ...

9 Traits of Exceptional Leaders

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

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

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

8 Types of Courage for Aspiring Leaders

“The truth is that courage resides within you; you must simply decide to ...

How to Manage Former Peers

Let’s talk about a potentially awkward situation. You get a new role and ...

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Christina Lewis
Emerging Leader Spotlight: Christina Lewis

Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what she is doing

Six Ways to Attract and Hire Women in Male-Dominated Industries
Six Ways to Attract and Hire Women in Male-Dominated Industries

Current news stories make it sound like it’s impossible to attract women to high-tech jobs.

Leaderly Quote: There’s something inside you that is stronger…
Leaderly Quote: There’s something inside you that is stronger…

“It’s impossible to please everybody,” writes Alexandra Franzen in her article, You’re Going to be

You Can Make Excuses or You Can Make Progress
You Can Make Excuses or You Can Make Progress

The other day, I hopped in a cab. The driver and I started chatting, as

3 Rules for Rule-Breakers
3 Rules for Rule-Breakers

“You can’t leave your career when you’re at your height—it will derail you.” That was

Leaderly Quote: Everyone needs a few influential advocates.
Leaderly Quote: Everyone needs a few influential advocates.

Everyone needs a few influential advocates. It’s not an exaggeration to say that with one

Top 5 Most-Read Articles This Month
Top 5 Most-Read Articles This Month

Here’s what other emerging leaders have been reading at BeLeaderly.com this month. Do you like

4 Corporate Culture Questions to Ask in a Job Interview
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.

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Maria Stoica
Emerging Leader Spotlight: Maria Stoica

Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what she is doing

Want to Become a Leader? First, Find Your Cause.
Want to Become a Leader? First, Find Your Cause.

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all

Leaderly Quote: Step out of your career comfort zone…
Leaderly Quote: Step out of your career comfort zone…

Step out of your career comfort zone and step into your greatness.

10 Questions for Mid-Year Reflection
10 Questions for Mid-Year Reflection

Is it just me… … or does it feel like the first half of the

Leaderly Quote: Companies need risk-takers and rule-breakers
Leaderly Quote: Companies need risk-takers and rule-breakers

“Every company is under fierce competition,” says Holly Meidl, Senior Vice President of the Healthcare

Why Are Female CEOs Out-Earning Male Peers?
Why Are Female CEOs Out-Earning Male Peers?

It’s well known that women are under-represented in C-suite leadership positions, but some fascinating statistics

Top 5 Most-Read Articles this Month

Here’s what other emerging leaders have been ...

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 Qualities of a Leader

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

Leaderly Quote: Great Leaders Know When to Step Aside

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

Leaderly Quote: Mentors talk with you, sponsors talk about you.

“What’s the difference between mentors and sponsors?” ...

5 Ways We Act Small When We Don’t Mean To

Not long ago, I wrote an article ...

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.

Subscribe

captcha

PRIVACY

We will never share, rent, or sell your personal information or email address.
Copyright 2017, Be Leaderly