Should I ask about future work colleagues before accepting the job?

By Robert Half on 8 May 2018

No matter what your role, chances are, you’ll spend a lot of time with work colleagues.

Hong Kong employees have the longest working hours in the world, with financial services company UBS reporting an average of 50.1 hours per week spent in the office. Moreover, a census report by the Hong Kong government reported that 11% of the population spends a minimum of 60 hours in the workplace.

While working long hours may have become a habit for some, the reality reveals that employees in Hong Kong will spend a significant proportion of their week working alongside their office teams.

With this in mind, company culture and the work colleagues you interact alongside can have a tremendous impact on your productivity, your happiness, and ultimately, your career. Take a look at why it’s important to use the job interview as an opportunity to learn about the people you could be working with.

Work colleagues with a shared culture enjoy benefits

A study by the University of Iowa found that employees who share a company’s culture and fit in with their work colleagues benefit in a variety of ways. They are likely to have higher levels of job satisfaction, improved job performance and are more likely to stay with the same employer for longer.

Getting along with work colleagues and having friends at work offers other pluses too. Morale tends to be higher, and sharing a close-knit bond with co-workers often improves communication. This can encourage you to feel more comfortable about suggesting new innovations. Fitting in with work colleagues can also foster the sense of trust that underpins collaboration.

Having work colleagues that you regard as friends can even enhance workplace happiness. Research by Robert Half revealed that Hong Kong workers who have good working relationships with their team members are 2.5 times more likely to be happy on the job. That matters because happy employees are generally more productive, engaged and creative – traits that will impress a manager.

More than six out of ten employers have got it wrong

However, employers don’t always get the cultural fit right when they are selecting new staff members. 64% of surveyed Hong Kong managers admit they have hired an employee who did not fit in well with their team.* This makes it important for you to ask about the people you’re going to be working with. It can help you identify companies where you are truly part of the team, and that can make assimilating into a new workplace a lot easier.

On the flipside, asking about your future work colleagues can alert you to a possible mismatch at an early stage, helping you avoid a workplace where you won’t fit in, and consequently may not perform at your best.

Framing questions about your work colleagues

Posing questions to a hiring manager about the team they have built up calls for tact and a professional approach.

A simple “Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?” will start the ball rolling. The response should give you a broad brush picture about the diversity of the team, the mix of skills and how the team works together.

Ask what the team culture is like too. You may discover that almost everyone shares time outside the workplace – anything from Friday night get-togethers, to forming teams for corporate sporting or volunteering events. Watch for signs that this is an expectation or if it’s simply a comfortable by-product of a team culture that everyone is happy to share and enjoy.

If you’re still not sure about whether you would get along with your future work colleagues, enquire about the types of personality or personality traits that thrive in the company. Think about whether the personality types that gain top billing match your own – or at least those you feel comfortable working alongside.

Tap into your own observations

Hiring managers, just like jobseekers, may put their best foot forward in a job interview, and there is a possibility that a hiring manager may sugar coat answers – not just to attract you to the role but also to support the company brand.

This makes it sensible to put your powers of observation to work. Observe the people you encounter while you’re attending the interview. Are they mixing together, chatting comfortably and happy to collaborate? If the interview involves more than just the hiring manager, think about how each person on the interview panel interacts – are they relaxed and friendly or strictly professional?

Asking about your future work colleagues in a job interview is never the same as actually working alongside them. But it can give you useful insights into whether the company is a good fit for you – and conversely, whether you are right for the team.

*Independent survey commissioned by Robert Half

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