Learning Center Articles Writing and Asking Interview Questions that Capture Culture
Writing and Asking Interview Questions that Capture Culture

Writing and Asking Interview Questions that Capture Culture

Maddy Ford October 13 2020

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You did it! You got an interview invitation. Now it’s time to start thinking about preparation, especially what questions you’re going to ask. Interviewing is not only an opportunity for you to share yourself, but to learn about the company you’re interviewing with. It can sometimes be challenging coming up with questions that will get right to the point of what you’re looking for, especially if what you’re trying to evaluate is company culture.

Getting a read on company culture means it’s important to craft thoughtful, well-worded questions that will really get to the answers you’re looking for about a company’s culture. Here are a few tips for creating questions that will really get down to the heart of things.

  1. First, get clear on what answers you’re looking for. What values are important to you? What are some ways your ideal company might act on those values? Think about past experiences, and what worked and didn’t work for you. Knowing this information will help you process an interviewer’s answer more quickly.
  2. Get specific. Ask questions that require examples. For instance, if community engagement at a company-wide level is important to you, instead of asking “How does Company contribute to its community?” ask “When was the last time Company’s staff participated in a community engagement or volunteer event, and what were the outcomes?” If the interviewer can’t remember or it was a long time ago, that gives you even more insight on how this value is or is not practiced by this company.
  3. Get context. Rather than asking, “Can you tell me about Company’s tech stack?” ask “Can you tell me about the evolution of Company’s tech stack since Company started (or if it’s been a few years, maybe ask about the past year or so)?” This gives you not only a historical look at what this company has used and is using, but insight into the decision making process, and what this company’s tech needs and priorities are now.
  4. Get creative. Especially if you’re interviewing with folks who you might work directly with, this is a great opportunity to get to know people and how they’re championing company culture. Creative questions like, “If you were a food, what food would you be?” and “If this team was a rock band, who’s playing on what instruments and why?” are fun, and they can give you an opportunity to connect with people you may get to work with.
  5. Get technical. Asking questions like “What processes are in place for measuring employee growth and goal-setting?” will give you insight into a company’s organization, requirements for management, and how they facilitate employee growth.

Company culture is sometimes an elusive thing to get a full picture on, and it should be noted that during an interview is certainly not the only time you can investigate a company’s cultural landscape. Chatting with friends, mentors, or connections who work or have worked at a company is a great way to more intimately understand the details of what it’s really like working there. It’s also worth looking into the company’s website, seeing if they have a blog, what their online presence looks like on various social media sites, etc. It’s hard to ever really get a full picture of a company’s culture before actually working there yourself, but with these questions and other research techniques you can be off to a great start.

Maddy Ford

Maddy is a coding bootcamp graduate and software engineer. She graduated from UW-Madison with a Bachelor's degree in Genetics, and also has a background in nonprofit work. Having created a career transition into tech for herself, she is passionate about teaching others and facilitating their growth in tech.

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