Ask These Questions to Learn About an Employer’s Corporate Culture

July 4, 2011 in Career and Job Search Tips, Interview Tips


A job interview is a two-way street.  A hiring manager tries to find out everything he can about you, while you try to find out everything you can about the position and your potential employer.

To decide whether or not you can thrive in an organization long-term, you need to learn about more than the basics (e.g., salary, job responsibilities and organizational structure).  During the interview, you must also determine if the company is a “good fit” for you – if their values, beliefs, ethics and rules of behavior align with your own.

But how do you ascertain if an employer’s corporate culture is right for you?

Before the Interview

Learn as much as you can about an employer before the formal interview starts:

  • Research the company before the interview. Search online for clues about the employer’s culture.  Review their annual report, website and what others write or say about the organization.  Plenty of resources are available online to guide you in your research.
  • Arrive a few minutes early. Observe how current employees are dressed, how they interact with one another and how courteous and professional they seem – before they know who you are.  Pay attention to what’s on the walls, how clean the space is and how much room employees are given to work.  All these details will provide a clearer picture of the company’s personality.

During the Interview

Use this list of sample questions to dig deeper in your next interview and uncover important information about an employer’s culture:

  • What does it take to succeed here long-term? The traits an employer encourages and rewards speak to its corporate culture.  Ask this question early in the interview and incorporate those sought-after characteristics into your subsequent answers.
  • If you could describe your company’s culture in just three words, what would you say? This question accomplishes two things.  First, it helps you learn about the salient aspects of an organization’s culture.   Second, it positions you as a thinker, setting you apart from the crowd.
  • Does this company have a written corporate values statement? A progressive organization (i.e., one that has put the effort into developing a formal values statement) understands the importance of corporate culture and is just as concerned about making a values match as you are.  If the company has no written cultural values, their mission statement may provide insight for you.
  • What are the best and worst parts about your work environment, that I wouldn’t understand unless I’d been working here for several months? Some workplaces are quite different once the “honeymoon” phase has passed.  This question may help elicit some candor from your interviewer and get him to share the realities of the work environment – both good and bad.  Beware of the interviewer who has nothing negative to say.  The fact is, all cultures have their positive and negative aspects.
  • What are your favorite aspects of this company’s culture? This question tells you what brings the interviewer back to work each and every day.  Because it’s personal, ask this question at the end of the interview – after you’ve had a chance to establish rapport with the interviewer.  You can end the interview on a positive note and leave a great final impression.

As you ask all these questions, pay attention to the interviewer’s nonverbal cues.  Sometimes the words an interviewer says aren’t as important as how he says them.  Body language, eye contact, facial expressions and posture don’t lie.  Compare the interviewer’s actions with his words to decide if he is really telling the truth, or just trying to present the company in the best possible light.

Looking for your next food & beverage position?

Kinsa Group has the inside track with leading food & beverage employers and can help you make smarter employment decisions.  We provide you with invaluable details about corporate culture, interviewers’ personality styles and other intangibles to ensure you thrive in your next position.  Contact a Kinsa recruiter today.