Top questions to ask in an interview to find the right cultural fit

By Elliot Bowman

Published on 01-09-2021


There are a number of aspects to consider when searching for your next job, arguably none more important than finding a culture that works for you. Yet, determining the culture of a business can take some investigation to uncover during the interview process. To ensure you find a business culture where you can thrive, it's important to do your research and ask the right questions.

Culture is the attitudes, customs, beliefs and behaviour characteristics of a group of people. An organisation's culture encompasses the shared beliefs and values of its employees, assumptions and expectations of how people should behave, the way decisions are made, and experiences of how different things are carried out.

It is easy enough to understand the responsibilities of a role, however cultural behaviours and expectations require a greater level of investigation. Below are some questions to help you understand if you are aligned to an organisation culturally.

Think about what matters most to you being happy at work - whether it's flexibility, fun, career progression, performance recognition and reward, leadership style, work environment, or particular values - and look for evidence of how people in the business 'live' these aspects.

  • How would you describe the culture?
  • What is the flexible working policy like?
  • Where can you see this role leading to in the next 12-18 months?
  • How does the company support professional development and further education?
  • How do you recognise and reward performance?
  • What is the business structure (flat or hierarchical) and leadership style (collaborative, empathetic, laissez-faire, autocratic) - especially of my direct manager?
  • What behaviours are valued by the senior leaders of the organisation? (Remember that behaviours differ from values; behaviours show the day-to-day actions and practical application of values).
  • What are some of the common traits of successful individuals who have been promoted recently?
  • Where would you say that critical conversations most frequently happen? Around the boardroom table, in team meetings, or at the water cooler?
  • What key long-term initiatives is the business looking to implement both internally and externally?
  • What will it be like working with you/in the team?
  • What do you enjoy most about working here?

You may be able to uncover aspects of an organisation's culture outside of asking direct questions. Think about the language used and the questions asked of you during the interview process to get an idea of what's important and where priorities lie. To further understand the cultural intricacies of a business, you could also ask previous and current employees the above questions or check the company's social media and website to get a feel for the culture. This should give you a clearer representation of the business as a whole and the opinions and ways of working held by current or past employees.

There are also sites such as Glassdoor and Jobadvisor that can provide insight into the culture of a business as rated by different types of employees.

Combining these tactics will help you build a more in-depth understanding of your cultural compatibility with an organisation. Once you have the answers, it is a matter of comparing your expectations to that of the company you are interviewing with. If there are synergies between your attitudes, beliefs and behaviours and the organisation you are interviewing with, your decision making process and transition into a new role will be much smoother.

Read more interview advice.

For further insight on finding the right cultural fit in your next job, get in touch with one of our specialist consultants.