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The best questions to ask in a job interview to assess the workplace culture

The best questions to ask in a job interview to assess the workplace culture

When it comes to job satisfaction, there’s a special ingredient that holds the key to happiness and success in a role: it’s called “cultural fit.”

The Harvard Business Review describes cultural fit as the likelihood that someone will reflect and/or be able to adapt to the core beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that make up an organization.

At Hudson, we know from experience how important cultural fit is to an employee’s performance, happiness and longevity in a role – because individuals will only thrive in an environment where they feel comfortable and within an organization whose values align with their own.

It doesn’t matter how attractive the role is – if the right fit does not exist between you and the organization, you probably won’t work out there in the long term.

Cultural fit is hard to get right. What questions can you ask in an interview to help you determine if the organization is right for you?

How would you describe the company culture?

Asking directly about the organizational culture is the first place to start. How the interviewer responds will tell you if there is a clearly defined culture and ethos that permeates the organization that they can clearly articulate.

If you get the opportunity, ask this question to more than one person to see if the answers are consistent.  Also see if the response is consistent with the organization’s mission statement, which is often published on the company website.

What personality traits are important to be successful in this organization?

Finding out what personality traits they are looking for will reveal the qualities they value and help you assess if you are the right fit for the organization.

There is no point in pretending to be something you’re not.

For example, the organizational culture might suit people who are highly competitive, entrepreneurial or exuberant, whereas you might prefer consistency and calmness.

What is the management style at your organization?

Different people prefer different management styles. Some flourish when working for leaders with a consultative management style, while others prefer managers who provide lots of direction. It is important to know what you will be getting into so you can decide if the management style of the organization is one you will feel comfortable with and could adapt well to.

How do you support employee learning and development?

This question will tell you if the organization values and demonstrates commitment to their employees’ development with formal training programs to support career progression within the organization. A business that invests in the professional development of its people might be one you are more inclined to commit to in the longer term.

How do you recognize and reward employee performance?

The way an organization rewards performance reveals a lot about their cultural values. Do they only reward things like sales and revenue, or do they recognize other qualities and achievements? Do they celebrate their employees’ successes and milestones, offer bonuses or non-monetary rewards, and do they reward individuals or teams? These will give you a good insight into the kind of environment they create, and how they motivate their staff. Are these the things that would motivate you?

What do you enjoy about working here?

The interviewer’s response to this question will help you understand the organizational culture on a more personal level. They might say they love having the freedom to be creative and take risks, that they feel heard and respected by upper management, or that the camaraderie with colleagues makes even the most stressful day bearable. What is highlighted will help you determine if this is an environment where you would fit in and enjoy coming to everyday.

Which corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives do you support?

For some people, working for an organization that demonstrates a commitment to certain causes or issues is extremely important. CSR programs can take many forms, from having a “green” workplace to gender equality and diversity programs or charity donations. If these are high on your values list, it is important to know whether the organization shares the same values and backs them up with actions.

Finally, you will be able to glean many clues about the organization’s culture without directly asking questions. The types of questions they ask in the interview will tell you what they place most importance on and whether cultural fit is a top priority for them. How interested are they in your personality, values and motivational drivers? Do they ask about your working and management preferences? Do they use formal psychometric assessments? If so, then they are as interested in getting the fit right as you are.

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