6 smart interview questions to help you gauge company culture

Sweating your first interview and wondering whether you’ll be a good fit? Don’t forget that a company’s environment needs to be a good fit for you too.

6 smart interview questions to help you gauge company culture

Big salary, great benefits, and a robust 401(k) plan… your dream employer might offer it all. But will you gel with the company’s culture?

The answer matters to both job seekers and hiring managers alike. More than 80% of employers worldwide named cultural fit a top hiring priority, according to a 2013 survey by international development firm Cubiks. Unless you feel comfortable where you work, you may come to hate your job—and stall out before your career gets going.

“Job interviewing is like dating: you’re assessing whether you and the company are a good match,” says Paul Thallner, an executive culture consultant at Great Place to Work, a global advisory and research firm based in San Francisco.

Take the job interview as an opportunity to ask some of these pointed questions, which reveal how the company ticks.

“How does the company celebrate success?”

Some organizations reward employees for achievements in the form of public praise, happy hours, or a good old-fashioned ice cream party, while others don’t do anything special to champion major accomplishments. If you’re part of the 41% of millennials who prefer to be rewarded or recognized for your work at least monthly, according to firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, find out whether you’re going to get it from your prospective employer.

“If I came here during lunch hour, what would I see?”

This question gets to the core of the company’s social norms, says Chris Edmonds, author of The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace. Workplaces where employees eat together in the break room or go out as a group are very different from those where people stay chained to their desk and eat alone. However, “for people who are more introverted, whether employees eat lunch together is less important,” Edmonds points out, so determine what matters more to you.

“What do you do to encourage camaraderie and collaboration among co-workers?”

If you’re like most millennials, you enjoy working as a team. Consequently, since an organization where people work primarily independently wouldn’t be the right fit for you, find out how often employees collaborate, says Eric Chester, author of On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in Their People Without Burning Them Out. “Ask the interviewer to tell you a story about a time when people worked together and knocked a project out of the park,” advises Thallner.

Similarly, building relationships with colleagues across the company helps raise visibility, so ask how the organization facilitates collaboration between departments, recommends Dennis Hahn, author of a white paper on the importance of building a business with a cultural brand.

“How do managers provide feedback to employees?”

In a survey by HR services provider TriNet, nearly nine out of 10 millennials said they would feel more confident in their current position if they had more frequent performance conversations with their manager.

Sound like you? Find out the company’s approach to performance reviews, managers’ preferred method of communication (research shows talking in person isn’t always the most beneficial), and whether the boss has an open-door policy.

“How does the company extend its mission to the community?”

Millennials care about more than just making money. In fact, 87% of those surveyed by the Case Foundation said they enjoy company-wide days of community service. Ask this question to better understand the organization’s philosophy on philanthropy; some take a hands-on approach, whereas others simply make a financial donation.

“Are there opportunities for additional training and education?”

Whether the company fosters skills development can impact your career in the long term, so ask for specifics on internal mentorship, attending industry conferences, and sponsored certification programs. “You want to work for an employer that invests in your future,” says Edmonds.

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