Questions to ask about work culture in a job interview

Avoid new-workplace culture shock by asking these key questions.

You spend most of your week at work, so enjoying your time there is crucial. That’s why work culture matters so much. It’s important you have an understanding of a workplace’s culture well before you sign on any dotted line, and the best time to do so is during the job interview process. Ask these four questions to help identify whether a culture is the right fit for you.

Which three words best describe your work culture?

These three words will speak volumes about what your potential employer’s company culture is really like, as it is a reflection of what they themselves think of it. Were they words that appealed to you? Or repelled you? Are they traits you identify within yourself and value in a workplace?

For example, if your answer is “fast-paced, hardworking and intense” and you’re seeking something laid-back, fun and flexible, it may not be the right role for you. Dig a little deeper, ask a few more questions and be open about what you’re seeking in a new position and workplace.

What kind of charity work or CSR does the company participate in?

This question offers a glimpse into the company’s social values and how this translates both internally (through staff taking part in charity work together) and externally (how their work benefits the greater community). Do you respect the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach and is it something you’d like to be part of?

The Robert Half Salary Guide notes that businesses need to consider what they offer employees beyond their jobs. “Think about your unique employer value proposition – what does your company offer outside of the role the employee will be working in? Younger generations are highly conscious of what a brand stands for and how it is perceived.”

What does it take to be successful here?

Wonder what your potential long-term future in the company looks like? This answer will help you identify which factors determine it. An answer of “hard work and loyalty” may indicate a workplace where employees are valued for their duration of service, a common scenario in Singaporean companies, while one of “innovation” lends itself to a business that champions creative thinking. Consider whether your potential employer’s formula for success aligns to your own.

How closely do different teams, departments and levels of management work and interact?

Want an insight into your potential employer’s business and management model? Ask this question.

Some workplaces encourage interaction across the business, while others prefer it to be kept in clearly defined silos of departments and teams. If you like order and hierarchy then the latter may appeal, but for others, open communication and the chance to work alongside the MD or their department head (and show them what you can do) – or even just chat to them at Friday work drinks – matters. Pay attention to this answer.

While a promotion and a higher salary are big drawcards, work culture should rate just as highly in a new role because where and who you work with will greatly contribute to how happy you are, how motivated you are and how long you stay on.

Want more interview tips and advice? Visit our job interview hub.