Simple Questions that Will Help You Gauge an Organisation's Culture During an Interview

Asking pertinent questions during your interview is vital to understanding your future in that organisation

learn more about Dr. (Col) John Chenetra

By Dr. (Col) John Chenetra

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Organisational culture is the shared set of values and the socio-psychological environment that an organisation develops over the course of its existence. These tend to be unique to that particular company and comprise a large part of the entity's work environment. When selecting a new job, it is necessary to ensure that the organisation's values, attitudes, and work culture are consistent with your own to guarantee a healthy and rewarding work life. It would be prudent on your part, to conduct this crucial compatibility check, because no matter how great the position or salary, it is detrimental to your growth and progress to survive in a work culture that doesn't help you thrive, rather leaves you feeling unfulfilled and stressed.

A company, like individuals, has a distinct personality, an outcome of the people that constitute it, as well as its own vision and mission. Here are a few different types of character dimensions that every organisation exhibits:

Activities Or Output Oriented

In output-oriented organisations, employees are primarily out to achieve specific goals or results, even if these involve a substantial amount of risk. In activity-oriented companies, the defining features are the way in which the work has to be carried out.

Job Or People Oriented

In job oriented organisations, hard work is the norm and the task at hand is considered more important than the comfort or growth of the individual. In person oriented organisations, employee welfare is of utmost importance, even at the expense of work.

Corporate Or Professional Oriented

In a professional organisation, the identity of employees is determined by their occupation (profession) e.g. a law firm, while in corporate units, the identity of an employee is determined by the fact of being a member of the organisation e.g. Google.

Open Or Closed Oriented

In open organisations, communication between superiors and subordinates is free-flowing and less formal. In closed organisations, these channels are more or less blocked if not highly restricted.

Tight Or Loose Control Oriented

Tight organisations display a strong internal structure, predictability, chain of command, and discipline. On the other hand, loose organisations operate in a much more fluid manner, allowing for improvisations and surprises.

A job interview is an excellent time to assess whether or not you're compatible with the organisation with which you seek employment. This is not dissimilar to the role of an interviewer, the only difference being a matter of perspective. While many candidates are averse to questioning their interviewers, if one is to make an informed judgement about the company, it is absolutely necessary. Here are a few questions to ask your interviewer in order to familiarise yourself with the company's work environment:

  • Would you please describe the company or department culture in three words or phrases?

  • How does the company (team) handle conflicts or differing opinions?

  • How does the company recognise employee accomplishments?

  • Does the company have a "Code of Ethics"?

  • Please describe the leadership or managerial style at your company.

  • What qualities do the most successful employees in your company possess?

  • What is the company's attitude towards professional and educational advancement?

Interviews are a two-way street. They are designed specifically to help both parties evaluate if the other is worth their investment, and do not merely serve as a platform for employers to accept or reject potential recruits. Asking pertinent questions during your interview is vital to understanding your future in that organisation. Not getting hired may feel bad, but getting stuck in an unsuitable work environment is certainly worse.

Dr. (Col) John Chenetra

President, SecUR Credentials

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