Interview questions to uncover organizational culture

A few weeks ago, I received a newsletter email from Navigos Search, one of the leading recruitment firms in Vietnam. Such newsletter emails usually provide tips for job candidates and that time, it was about “7 interview questions to uncover corporate culture” (the original article is from Scott Ginsberg, which can be found here). However, I myself don’t think that those questions are detailed enough to be actually helpful. As a result, I come up with a set of questions myself, and the number of questions is more than just seven.

Organizational culture

The approach that I have while defining this list of questions is based on the seven key dimensions of organizational culture. Details about the seven key dimensions can be found in session 3 of my first post. Each question in the list will help the candidates to uncover one key dimension of the corporate culture:

Individual Autonomy:
  • Is empowerment strongly encouraged? Does it happen regularly?
  • Is it compulsory for all employees to be self-managed and self-organized?
  • Is decision making centralized or decentralized?
  • Does the company have a lot of rules and policies?
  • Does the company have a flat or a hierarchical organizational structure?
  • How many levels of hierarchy does the organizational structure have?
  • How willing are managers to support their subordinates?
  • Will managers be upset if their staffs seek for assistance from them?
  • Are managers encouraged to assist their subordinates?
  • Are employees proud of being part of the company?
  • Are employees eager to join public events on behalf of the company?
  • Do the employees usually wear company T-shirt to work? Outside the office?
  • Does the company have any CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) program?
Performance Reward:
  • How does the reward system or the evaluation system work?
  • Which factors are rewards (salary raise, bonus, promotion) based on? Performance? Seniority? Loyalty? Relationship?
  • Does the evaluation system compare employees to absolute standards or to each other?
Conflict Tolerance:
  • Does work-related conflict acceptable?
  • Does personal conflict acceptable?
  • Is it acceptable to have work-related conflict with your manager?
  • Is it normal to have a work-related argument with your manager in public?
  • Is aggressiveness acceptable?
  • Are people aggressive when discussing and arguing?
Risk Tolerance:
  • Is it acceptable to take risk?
  • Is the terms “high risk, high value” usually applied?

As you can see, there are a lot of questions and you may not have enough time to ask all of them in the interview. One suggestion is to find the answers for some of the questions by doing some researches or to ask only about the dimensions that are important to you. Usually you will have a chance to ask questions about the company at the end of the interview and by asking questions about organizational culture, you can impress the interviewers. The key point here is to be able to gain more understandings about the organizational culture to make sure that you can fit into it. This is extreme important because you can not perform well in a culture that you do not fit in.


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