How to spot a great culture at interview

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An open plan office with exposed brick walls and colleagues working in groups, symbolising a positive work culture.

Many businesses want to be known as great places to work. They want to set themselves apart from their rivals not just with their products or services, but with the culture of their organisation. Luckily, these differentiations can make it easier for you to spot which organisations might fit you best. Use these simple steps when interviewing, to help you find the best place for you.

1. Pay attention to what they’re asking you

If culture is important to a business, this will be reflected in your interview questions. Your interviewer may ask about your personality, your hobbies, your likes and dislikes, and could even throw in some curveball questions. While these lines of inquiry may not always show if you’re any more or less capable of fulfilling the duties of the role, they can give an indication of how likely you are to thrive in the environment the business has created. If your interviewer simply asks about qualifications and professional experiences, then it could be an indication that cultural fit is less important to them. Either way, be sure to have answers prepared that help to paint the picture of who you are. If personality is important to them, you must be able to display yours.

2. Dig a little deeper

You should also prepare some questions to ask them about the culture. For example, is there a social side to the business? How do they make staff feel supported? What opportunities for development do they offer? Any of these can tell you a bit about how the business wishes to project itself and if you think you’d fit in well. After-work drinks can be a good indication of a social team. Businesses offering staff the chance to learn new skills can mean that career progression is more likely. Tailor these questions around what you are looking for in a business. Hopefully the organisation will be a good fit.

3. Discuss the company goals

The story goes that when President Kennedy visited a NASA facility in the 60s to see first-hand the progress America was making in the space race, he happened upon a janitor cleaning up. Kennedy asked him what he was doing, to which he replied: “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.” It’s unknown how much truth there is to this tale, but it’s a great example of how a common purpose can inspire an entire workforce. For this reason you should ask about wider company goals. While your interviewer’s answer may not be quite as anecdotal, it will give you an indication of what matters to the organisation. Many businesses now try to inspire a higher purpose in staff rather than simply chasing a healthy profit margin, this can be a great way to gauge the culture. Some companies hope to make ground-breaking developments, others wish to leave the world in a better shape than they found it. Whatever their purpose is, it could help you realise if you would be a good fit for the business.

4. Take a tour

This is probably best left until the second interview, but it’s sometimes worth asking if your interviewer can show you around the business to give you a feel for the working environment. You’ll be able to take note of things like dress code, desk space, the facilities on offer and the mood of the office. If staff are in shorts, gathered round a pool table, sipping on complimentary beers, it’s likely to be a ‘work hard-play hard’ culture where having fun is important. If they’re in suits, sat in pods, eyes glued to a spreadsheet, it could indicate that results are more important than recreation. Both styles of business can work, and there are candidates to fit both environments. If a quick look around flags up any warnings to you, it’s better to know now than a week into the job.

If you’re currently looking for a new role, get in touch today to find out more about identifying the right cultural fit for you.

Author Tiger Contributor Tiger Recruitment Team

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