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Questions Job Candidates Can Ask to Understand a Company's Culture


Joanna Dodd Massey Ph.D., MBA


Career and Workplace

With over 25 years of experience in the media industry at companies, such as Conde Nast, Lionsgate, CBS, Viacom, Discovery and Hasbro, Joanna Dodd Massey, Ph.D., MBA is a C-level communications executive and Board Director. She has managed brand reputation, corporate turnaround, crisis communications and culture transformation. Currently, Dr. Massey is a communications consultant, as well as Founder & CEO of The Marketing Communications Think Tank. She is a corporate speaker and trainer, as well as author of the books, "Communicating During a Crisis," and "Culture Shock: Surviving Five Generations in One Workplace" (TVG Publishing, 2020).

I have been a hiring manager for more than 25 years and I have seen a significant shift in hiring practices in that time. It used to be that Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were mostly concerned about whether or not they could get hired. Even if the company was notorious for having a bad culture, these two generations were focused on getting the job, rather than their quality of life at work.

That has shifted significantly with Millennials (born 1981-1996), and now Gen Z (born 1997 and later), who are 23 years old at their oldest and are just entering the workforce. Studies have shown that young adults are more concerned with workplace well-being than material benefits. They want personal and professional opportunities, as well as good relationships with their colleagues. The toxic workplace culture of the 70s and 80s that Hollywood made movies about doesn’t appeal to Gen Z, who will leave a company that doesn’t have a supportive work environment.

The best way for younger workers to assess for cultural fit is in the questions they ask during an interview. This is an extremely broad topic, so following are just a few examples:


How would you describe the work environment at the company and amongst the team I would be joining?


What are some of the character traits you’re looking for in your ideal hire?


What is the preferred work style of the team? Is there a lot of collaboration, or do they tend to work independently?



The answers to these questions will be revealing, as they can tell you if the culture is family-like or highly competitive, if the employees are siloed or congenial, if the team is heavily managed or more independent. Ultimately, asking the right questions will tell you a lot about your work-life balance and the quality of your interactions when you’re in the office.

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