Wednesday, May 11, 2011

7 Interview Questions to Uncover Corporate Culture

By Scott Ginsberg

You won’t succeed if you think your co-workers are annoying. (Or vice versa.) So ask these questions upfront to uncover what’s really going on

You’re not the only person being interviewed. In fact, your perception of a company is equally as important as their perception of you.

Here’s the reality: You can’t work where you don’t feel comfortable. You can’t thrive where you don’t feel at home. And you can’t grow where you don’t feel welcome.
Therefore, the culture of the company you’re applying for carries tremendous weight on your decision to work there.

Today we’re going to explore seven questions to ask about corporate culture, along with an explanation of what makes them work. Consider asking a few of these on your next interview:
1. If you could describe your corporate culture in three words, what would you say?

This question accomplishes several goals. First, it’s creative. That positions you as a thinker, not just another resume. Second, it challenges the interviewer to boil down the essence of their workplace in only a few words. Finally, your interviewer’s response isn’t as important as how she responds. Watch her body language. Check her posture. And keep an eye on her facial expressions. Look for consistency between actions and words to get the true description of the culture. Because someone’s body never lies to you.

2. If you were going to give public tours of this company, what stops would the guide make?
This is another creative question to challenge your interviewer. What’s more, her answers will represent the “greatest hits” of the company’s culture. This delivers invaluable insight into what they perceive as the leading attributes of their company. After all, you wouldn’t make it a stop on the tour if it didn’t symbolize a core component to the company’s culture, right?

3. If the local paper were going to run a four-page article about your company’s culture, what would be impossible not to include?
Creative, challenging and counterintuitive. Also positions you in a positive light, regardless of the answer. And, similar to the tour question, this allows your interviewer to put her company in the best light. The secret is, by suggesting a newspaper article it reveals the parts of the company’s culture that she would want the public to know about. Transparency is key.

4. What’s the best part about working in this environment that I won’t be able to see from just a walk around the office?
This question digs deep into the true value of working in a particular company environment. You learn the culture behind the culture, as some workplaces are quite different once you’ve been employed there for a few months. This might be helpful in eliciting a little candor in your interviewer about the reality you’d be working in. Sometimes culture is hard to discern from a brief walkthrough or few weeks of work.

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