How Do You Vet A Company’s Culture In The Interview Process?

Posted on March 11, 2021 by Bailey Crumpton. Tagged: Resources for Candidates, For Candidates

(Updated April 2023)

If you are looking to make a career move or just starting out on your job search, a company’s culture is an important factor to consider. From a Glassdoor survey taken last year, 61% of people said they found parts of their new job were different than what they had expected based on the interview process. As a candidate, there are a few things you can do to prevent this potential disconnect.

It can be challenging to ask questions and vet culture in the interview process, but often times it’s the best way to gain insights on what it would be like to work for the company you’re interviewing with. Starting with tips for best practices in tech interviews, we also take a look at insightful questions to ask that go beyond what’s on a company’s website.

Vetting Culture is Like Vetting Your Future

Often established by leaders, or a set of agreed upon values, company culture is experienced through various practices, expectations, and day-to-day interactions of a team. Finding a company that has a great culture built in is hugely important, as it has an effect on our mental health, our self-worth, our personal development, and how we interact with the users and customers of the company’s services. Culture influences what the day-to-day of working for that company is actually like.

Sometimes, tech candidates find that in searching for a new job, it can be hard to understand a company's culture despite multiple in-depth interviews. When it comes to changing jobs, vetting culture is like vetting your future. A company’s lack of commitment to work-life balance or diversity can impact your wellbeing, lessen your motivation, and cause you to return to the drawing board if the fit does not work out.

In the pre-Covid world, walking into a company’s office space for an interview provided contextual clues about the team, their vibe, and the way they work. Without this in-person experience, it is especially challenging to pick up on a company's culture. With new remote work and flex work policies, is it still possible to get a feel for cultural elements while on a virtual call? We think so!

Approaching The Conversation On Culture

If a company has a great culture, they should be proud of it and willing to talk about it. Take it as a red flag if you ask about culture in an interview and the response is vague or lacking substance and enthusiasm. The way people respond, even on Zoom calls, can tell you a lot about how the culture plays out for people already working there. Did they hesitate and look to someone else before answering? Or did they jump in with a story about the team’s Friday trivia nights or a recent group accomplishment?

To truly gain any insights, the goal is to be intentional and direct about your culture questions. Posing your own questions after answering a dozen of them can seem daunting, or like it does not belong in the process, but we encourage our candidates to view it as an opportunity. You can inform how you might fit in there by going beyond technical and skill qualifications, like how a team approaches DEIB and equity at work.

Remember to be polite, clear, and open to any answers that may come your way. Take notes during your interview, and they will help you reflect on what was said, especially if you’re interviewing for multiple roles. Have your most important questions prepared or written down somewhere, followed by other questions if there is time.

So What Can I Ask To Vet Culture In the Interview Process?

171 Internal1

Good interviewers expect candidates to have questions, it is only natural when you are also figuring out if the role is a good fit. Almost like dating, you are trying to find out more in order to make a decision on whether or not the role and culture are a good fit. Try asking some of these open-ended, poignant questions:

  1. What kind of people are successful here? What traits are valued?
  2. What makes you proud to work for this company?
  3. Are there opportunities for education, training, or personal development?
  4. How do managers provide feedback or review performance?
  5. How does your team handle a situation that goes awry or requires pivoting?
  6. Regarding your company’s values, where do they show up the most or how are they used?
  7. How does your team connect and stay engaged during remote work?
  8. In what ways does your team prioritize inclusion at work or diversity in leadership?

When it comes to culture, these questions provide a starting point to figure out what is most important for you personally to ask about. However, they scratch the surface of the different aspects of culture, many of which are worth having a conversation on. You can also ask about what it’s like to work there every day, or how the team assigns tasks to get a feel for how you might fit in when working there.

Other Tips For Vetting Company Culture

By all means, start with a company’s website to get their official stance on culture and values. Use the information provided as a part of your discussion, it indicates you researched the role and are genuinely interested. For example, if an interviewer responds to one of your culture questions, you can follow up with something like, “that aligns with what I’ve heard and read about Company X. I’m always striving to improve, so it’s great to hear others at your organization feel the same.”

In an ideal interview, you would have all the time in the world to get the information you need. If there is only time for one or two questions, you can also check out reviews on job boards like Glassdoor or LinkedIn, or dig deeper into online forums. Spaces like Reddit and other social media sites often have anonymous forums where people honestly discuss what it was like to work somewhere. By surfing social media, you can also see how companies responded to important national or global events, and find alignment that way.

We all want to work for an employer that cares about us as people and invests in our future. When companies are competing for tech talent and candidates are juggling multiple offers, it gives candidates an advantage to lean into these conversations and find out more. Understanding the state of the market can help you advocate for yourself, and know there is space for conversations on culture, inclusion, development, and how the company keeps people engaged.

Final Thoughts

When looking at interviewing, we often default to thinking only the company is vetting and analyzing the candidate in front of them. In reality, hiring is a two-way street in which the best relationships are forged through a mutual understanding of work expectations, stellar culture, and supportive benefits. Take a moment to reflect and ask yourself, what kind of opportunities are the most important for me personally? What aspects of culture make me feel welcome or energized? From there, you can build a list of discussion points to ask about chances for team bonding, philanthropy, internal mentorship, attending industry events, or other sponsored certification programs. No matter what stage of your career journey you are in, these tips can help you identify what works and what doesn’t.

Here at BWBacon Group, we know and live what you are experiencing as an employer or job seeker in Denver, Boulder, Dallas, San Francisco, New York City or any of the other cities we work in. We believe great recruiting starts and ends with understanding people.

If you have any questions about living, working or playing any of the areas we serve, please contact us. We are happy to help. Seize the day, every day, that’s what we say!