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What questions do you ask in an interview to understand company culture?

When you’re interviewing remotely, it can be hard to know what the company is LIKE. How do colleagues treat each other? What are the hours like? How do they tackle tough problems? There are a lot of clues in the interview process but the easiest thing you can do? Ask great questions to elicit indirect examples of their culture. Telling you what they say their culture is is (often) easy. How they live and work by those values is much harder.

  • What was the team's biggest failure this year? You want to see if this is a culture that is open to failure, open to learning. Who takes the blame, what did they learn from it?

  • What does the team do to support each other’s mental health? Some companies have made this a priority, some have it baked into their DNA, and some may not care. The answer to this question should reveal how far these initiatives are embedded into the culture.

  • How would they define culture, and how does that trickle down to, for example, communication styles or work-life balance? It’s easy to spit out a corporate slogan for culture, but asking the interviewer to explain how it happens in practice usually exposes how much the company has thought about culture in the practical sense.

  • What’s the culture of communication? Do they have guidelines for email usage or Slack? The cadence and style of communication in a group reveals a lot. How often do people check in with each other is an indicator of a close-knit communicative team, which is neither good nor bad but valuable to know? How acceptable swearing is probably tells you a lot about the formality of the culture.

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