You are entering a job interview feeling more nervous than a dog in a room full of rocking chairs.

You usually do a good job answering the recruiter’s questions, but draw blanks as soon as they get to the end and ask, “Any questions for us?”

In your mind you are thinking of course I do.  Do employees like working here?  Are they treated well?  Do they actually look forward to coming to work?  I think I’ll be happy just to have a job, but how do I know you are the right fit for me culturally?

And as quickly as you think up these questions you reply, “No, your site did a good job answering everything I was wondering.”

You feel trapped.  You want to know what the company’s culture is and what really goes on inside a worker’s mind in this environment, but you feel you really can’t ask a recruiter these questions without coming off as prying, dispassionate, or skeptical.

So you pray the smiling faces on their site aren’t fake and that you’ll end up fitting in like a glove.

Only to find out two weeks later your boss is an egotistical suit monkey and your coworkers make calls while keeping open in the background.

Well, it doesn’t have to be that way.

25 Smashing Questions You Can “Actually” Ask Recruiters to Uncover a Company’s Culture

Here are a few questions to keep handy for the next interview you go into.

1.  How much do you work with your colleagues?

2.  What team accomplishments make you proud?

3.  Are there special activities to promote teamwork?

4.  Who in the company do you spend time with outside of work?  What do you do?

5.  Who in the company do you expect to be part of your professional network over time?

6.  Who are your mentors?  Do leaders continuously engage with you or coach you?

7. Do employees tend to know what’s going on with the company, excluding confidential issues?

8.  Do people say what they think?  Are the comfortable sharing their opinions even if others are offended?

9.  Are people careful about what they say and how they say it?

10. How would I be successful here?

11. What determines performance evaluations?

12. How is negative feedback communicated?

13. Do supervisors have an open-door policy?

14. What are your day-to-day policies on things like dress code, remote work, flexible work hours.

15.  If you could describe your corporate culture in three words what would you say?

16.  If you were giving a tour of the office, what stops would you make?

17.  If the local paper were running a four-page article about your company’s culture, what would be impossible not to include?

18.  What’s the best part about working in this environment that I won’t be able to see from just a walk around the office?

19.  Can I speak with one of your new hires or company veterans?

20. What is something an employee might do here that would be perceived as violating the company’s culture?

21.  What are a couple of misconceptions people have about the company?

22.  Can you give me some examples how employees here show work life balance?

23.  What kinds of professional development do employees have access to?

24.  What kinds of people excel here?

25.  What kind of rewards other than a paycheck does the company provide?

How to Ask These Questions Without Looking Stupid

The last thing you want to do is turn your interview into an interrogation that puts Law and Order to shame.

So ahead of time pick 3-4 questions that would reveal the things about the company that would be the biggest deal breakers if they were way off.

Remember to frame the questions in a positive light.

For example, instead of asking, “Does your company reward their employees with anything other than a paycheck?”

Ask “What rewards outside of a paycheck does the company offer?”

Assume they already have what it is you are looking for in your questions.  That way you don’t come off as trying to fail the company on some kind of inspection you made up.

The Guaranteed Way to Get All Your Company Culture Questions Answered

If you happen to have an interview on site, you have a guaranteed way to answer your culture curiosity.

Tell them, “Thanks for having me, would you mind if I could ask one of the employees who’s been here a few months a couple questions.  I just want to get a better feel for what it’s like to work here.”

No matter what the interviewer tells you at this point will be valuable.

If they tell you no, that’s a major red flag.  They may try to hide their fears by telling you everyone is busy, or some other excuse, but don’t let them off too easily.

Tell them, “I promise, I’ll be quick.”

If they still say no…you don’t want to work here.  Trust me.

So let’s say they agree.

Now you have a golden opportunity 95% of potential employees never get.

You have access to a real live employee who hopefully can give you an honest evaluation of the company culture.

All you really need to ask is, “Are you happy working here?”

People love having an open ear to how they really feel about work and are eager to give someone coming into their position advice on whether it’s a good move or if they should run for the hills.

If they answer no, follow up with, “Do you know anyone that is?”

Even if you just got unlucky and found the only unmotivated and frustrated employee in the office, they’ll still likely let you know if there are people in that role that are happy.

From here you just want to find out if it’s something personal or if it really is a company related problem.

If they say they are happy working here, ask them a few more questions from the list.

If they truly are happy they’ll be able to tell you what is rewarding besides the paycheck, who in the company they hang out with after work, and how the company gives back to it’s workers.

Before you leave ask if you can have their personal email in case you have any more questions.

When you get home send them a thank you message.

Who knows, maybe they are more comfortable revealing the dark secrets of the company culture in a private setting than they do in an open cubicle.

What Questions Would You Add

Let’s make this a living post.  No one wants to come into a new job in the dark, so let’s help them out.

What questions would you feel comfortable asking an interviewer to find out more about the company’s culture?


Thanks to Bill Barnett, Jonathan Davis, and Lori Cappozzi for their interview question contributions.