Inside: What questions about company culture are really going to help you get the answers you need? Use this guide to find your culture match.
“I want a company with a good culture.”
I hear that A LOT in career coaching because the parents I work with are thinking about job fulfillment AND flexibility.
But whenever they say “good culture” I do a Zach Morris timeout. Here’s why.
What do you mean by “good culture”?
“Good culture” can mean one million different things and none of them are wrong. Truly!
A company culture that is based on lots of social time with colleagues and ping pong tables in the break room can be a good culture.
A company culture that gives employees lots of autonomy to do work on their own time can be a good culture.
And yes, a company culture that has family-friendly policies in place that protect paid leave and schedule flexibility can be a good culture.
What is “good culture” to YOU? Not to your brother, or your neighbor, or your old college classmate – YOU.
Think about your criteria for culture. What type of environment do you thrive in? What are your core needs and non-negotiable? Are there specific characteristics are you looking for in a manager? If it’s hard to answer these questions, think about a job you HATED. What were the elements of that culture and then what is the positive opposite of those characteristics?
For example – you worked for a company that valued butts in seats time. Your positive opposite would be a results-oriented culture where it doesn’t matter when or where you get your work done, as long as you get it done. Or let’s say you worked for a company that was hyper-competitive. Your positive opposite would be a collaborative culture. See how that works?
Why do good questions about company culture matter?
Now that you have defined good culture for yourself, it’s time to go find it.
The good news is that companies will talk a lot about their culture on their websites and on LinkedIn. The better news is that you can pressure test that culture with good questions to determine what the culture at a company is really like!
In my Career Clarity Program, we talk a lot about all the different ways you can identify the right people to connect with and ask questions of because Googling is only going to get you so far. You need to talk to people.
Once again for the folks in the back, you need to talk to people!!
And once you have your list of people to reach out to, be prepared to ask them really good questions so that you can get really good answers before you pursue a new job opportunity or sign on the dotted line.
10 GREAT Questions about Company Culture
As you get ready to do some asking, you are going to create your own list of questions based on your specific culture criteria. However, you can use this list as a jumping-off point for crafting great questions that get you the answers you need.
1. How does your team celebrate personal and professional accomplishments or milestones?
Understanding how a company celebrates one another professionally and personally says a lot culture.
For example, if a company is fully in-person or hybrid, do they celebrate accomplishments and milestones with a team lunch when everyone is the office? Are celebrations planned so that they are inclusive of remote employees? Is a quick email acknowledgment all anyone is going to get? Or, maybe you just get a blank stare on this question and there is your answer!
Birthday cards alone do not equal good culture, but think about how you like to be recognized and see if there is alignment with the company culture. Often I hear from parents that they appreciate the recognition they get in their jobs because let’s face it, all your hard work at home doesn’t always get noticed!
2. How would success be measured in this role at your company?
This question gets to the butts in seats versus results-oriented culture difference. Does the company value autonomy or will there be a lot of oversight into your work? Neither is bad, but they are different.
Plus with a question like this you have insight into what you would want to focus on in order to succeed if you were to be offered the role.
Another thing to keep in mind is that answers to this question can vary greatly! You may get a very clear answer to this question with metrics, meaning the company has thought this through and clear expectations will be part of the culture. Or it may be a little more loosey goosey and you will need to decide if that is a good or bad thing for you.
3. I read that work-life balance is an important part of your company culture, how is that implemented in practice?
Here’s where your company research is going to come into play. Companies are going to tout work-life balance because it’s a buzzword we all want to see. But what does that really mean? You won’t know unless you ask to see some evidence like meetings that end by 3 pm or flexibility to choose work from home days.
You can ask a variation of this question with any culture element that a company is discussing on their website or LinkedIn page. Just make sure to pick out the elements that are most important to YOU so that the answers you get give you meaningful data.
4. I was excited to see that “family first” is one of your core company values, how is that value incorporated into your everyday business?
Here’s another variation on the “saw this on your website” question. Some companies will talk about their values instead of their culture and this is a great place for you to dig in. Don’t just rely on them saying “these are our values,” – get examples!
5. What is your paid family leave policy?
I love this super direct question. If a paid family leave policy is not listed on the company website, ask about it.
Ask about it if you are planning on growing your family. Ask about it even if you’re not planning on growing your family! The more companies are asked about their policies, the more they will see how critical they are to support families in order to attract and retain top talent.
6. What does your company do to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Here’s another direct question that I would love to see on everyone’s list. Imagine how cultures would be forced to change if we were all demanding action rather than lip service.
Ask follow up questions too. Get more detail about their hiring practices and salary transparency. Understand how the company thinks about mentorship and funding DEIJ professionals. If we want to create a better workplace for our children in the future, we need to start by asking questions.
7. Does your company have a working parent’s ERG?
ERGs (employee resource groups) are wonderful support systems within companies to promote community, belonging, and group advocacy.
You won’t see a working parent’s ERG at every company, but if that type of community is important to you as part of a culture, ask about it! Follow up on these questions too. What sort of resources does the ERG provide? How has that program helped fellow parents to thrive at the company?
8. As the company transitions after all the changes over the past two years, are you planning on staying remote, hybrid, or going fully back to the office?
Some people are afraid to ask the remote/hybrid/in-person question upfront. Don’t be!
If remote or hybrid work is a must-have for you and your family, ask the question in your informational conversations before you ever click submit on an application. You can do this in a conversational way as noted above, but make sure you ask.
9. What do you admire most about how the company has engaged with the community?
What I love about this question is that it lets you assess the company values AND the values of your potential coworkers.
If community engagement is an important cultural element for you because it’s a value you hold dear and one you want to showcase to your children, then make sure you ask about it.
If working with like-minded people is important to you, then get to know the people!
10. How does the company support flexible work schedules?
I hear folks talk about flexible work schedules all the time, but much like the question around “good culture” what does “flexibility” really mean?
First, figure out what your idea of flexibility is. Is flexibility about location, hours, PTO, job sharing? Then ask how the company defines (or doesn’t define) flexibility to see if you have alignment.
What questions about company culture will you ask?
So my friends, what does good culture look like to you?
Sketch it out and get super clear on what you want and need. And if you need help with that, the Career Clarity Program is going to help you answer these questions for yourself and then ask great questions going forward!