What questions should I ask in an interview or prior to taking on a new role? 

What will help me to understand the organization's or department's culture?

Evaluating a potential employer’s culture is particularly important and cannot be ignored. When you select an employer, you are choosing a way of life. Understanding the organization's culture and how it works will make it much easier to jump into your new opportunity. Finding the right organizational culture for you will also directly impact your employment satisfaction and future career advancement.

By culture, we mean the pattern of behavior encouraged and rewarded by an organization along with its shared values and beliefs. Simply stated: "The way things are done and the environment in which they occur."

Some organizations have very clear and pervasive cultures which are easy to identify. In many of these cases the organization puts strong emphasis on indoctrinating new employees to its culture in order to re-enforce employee efforts toward common objectives. In other instances, it may be difficult to determine an organization's culture.

The interview provides the perfect opportunity to ask questions that elicit information about cultural factors. If you've already interviewed and are considering an offer, try to go back and raise these questions. Obviously, use some care and discretion on these topics. The important thing is to understand your own Ideal Work Environment and listen for descriptions of the prospective employer that match or conflict with your own ideal.

The following questions may be appropriate:

  • How would you describe the management style here?
  • How would you describe the management style of (your prospective boss)?
  • How does the organization stay in touch with its market?
  • What suggestions would you make for a new employee to move into the cultural mainstream?
  • Describe a normal day in this position.

If you know others in the organization in addition to those who interviewed you, discreetly ask them some questions:

  • What's it like to work here?
  • What do you like most about it?
  • How is performance evaluated?
  • What are promotional policies

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