Ask your interviewer, ‘What would you change about the culture if you could?’ This type of question will help you get beyond the superficial and rehearsed answers and drive more meaningful and open conversations.
Ask them about he mission of the organization. “Most people won't know it or will guess incorrectly, which will be a signal that there is some misalignment between what they say and what they do as a company,“ says Van Vreede.
“Ask questions around how operational or project deadlines are set. Then ask about what process ensures that they are adhered to and how delays are dealt with,” says Kumar.
Another good question, says Kumar, is how operational or project teams are organized and led in a company. “Remember, a successful company culture is not just about how well they work together but also more importantly about how well they can execute,” Kumar says.
Speak with current employees
Many employers agree that you should network your way into these conversations before you get into the interview process. “Through networking, candidates should contact current and former employees to find out more about the culture -- both spoken and unspoken. A candidate needs to know the culture they work best in, because what one person hates may be exactly the culture where you might be successful,” Varelas says.
However, there is a time and place in the interview process where it makes sense to talk to potential coworkers and this is a great time to get a feel for what will potentially be your home away from home. Experts say that it be in the stage of the interview where there is mutual interest from both parties so the first phone interview isn’t the time to pose this request. It makes sense to wait until you are closer to the finish line. “After all -- you want to know the team you would be working with On a side note – if the process has not included [conversations with] potential peers up to that point that can be telling, too. What is the reason and what might that mean? Is it a very hierarchical org? Maybe they don’t value the team’s opinion in the process? Are they not empowered to be part of the interview team?,“ Nathanson says.
Look for cues in your correspondence
Clues to how a company operates may appear in your phone conversations, meetings or emails. You’ve got to be strategically aware of this. “During the interactions, whether it is an email exchange with HR/hiring manager or the interview discussions, look for behavioral clues. For example, if everyone you meet is always rushed, it may indicate a sense of urgency or reactionary approach to things. Don’t look for perfection, but look to see if the culture is about evolving and getting better,” says Kumar.
Don’t be blinded by perks
In the world of technology you regularly here about the latest startup offering perks that on the surface seem incredible but often there is a price to pay for those perks like long hours or being on call for example. In other situations it can seem like there is no one at the helm at all and in those cases the culture just kind of creates itself, good or bad. Remember thjat culture isn’t necessarily about the perks provided but more about traits and the core values that an organizations embraces. All the perks in the world won’t make up for poor leadership, a bad work environment or lack of culture from the top down.
Knowing who you are and what is important to you are the first steps on the road to career success. Combine that with the right research and a little luck and you should find yourself in a job that you want to be in. However, if don’t invest the time and resources necessary you will likely find yourself looking for a new job and no one wants to go through those efforts all over again.