What is company culture?

The shared values, beliefs, and practices of an organization’s employees and leaders are the components of a company’s culture. These beliefs and practices determine how employees and management treat one other, handle business transactions, and interact with clients, customers, and shareholders.

Why is company culture important?

Compared to time spent at home, many individuals spend an even greater portion of their waking hours in the workplace. Therefore, a positive, constructive, and supportive company culture can greatly affect an employee’s morale, both in and out of the workplace. A functional and encouraging culture promotes unity among employees, company loyalty, and even a healthy competition; leading to ultimate prosperity within the organization.

All individuals should aim to work for an organization with a positive company culture in which they will have a greater opportunity to thrive.


How can candidates learn about a company’s culture during a job interview?

Providing you have landed an interview with your company of choice, there are ways to actually ascertain a company’s culture during the job interview itself.

Candidates should seek to obtain a more comprehensive view than simply relying upon standard statements such as, “We have an inclusive company culture that encourages collaboration among all members or the organization,” or “We reward employees who show initiative in our organization”.

At the end of most job interviews, a competent interviewer will typically ask a candidate if they have any questions; and this is the perfect occasion to acquire a more transparent perspective on the type of culture a company actually possesses.

Here are eight helpful tips for candidates seeking a more in-depth view on the culture of the company with which they are interviewing:

1.   What makes you proud to work for this company?

Watch the interviewer closely as he answers this question. Signs of a satisfied (or unsatisfied) employee (or leader) will be evident in his or her voice and/or body-language, even if attempts are made to mask true feelings. Try your best to tune in to any negative cues, such as looking down or a general avoidance. Interviewers who speak highly – and with sincerity — of the company for which they work, indicate a positive company culture.

2.   When are the busiest times of year for this company?

This is an indirect question relating to the general employee workload. The interviewer’s answer may also give clues to employee work habits (for example, whether they work as a team or independently). For instance, if a company works cohesively as a team, the interviewer may mention something such, “We work extra hours toward the end of fall because of the high volume of orders for Christmas”. Otherwise, the answer might lean toward, “You will be expected to work extra hours towards the end of November up to early December because of the high volume of orders for the holidays.”

3.   How often does management meet with the staff?

This answer could provide a strong indication of the level of communication among colleagues. It can also reveal the level of teamwork supported by the organization.

4.   How do you assist your employees in the area of career development and advancement?

The answer to this question will suggest how much the company values its employees as well as the magnitude of importance they dedicate toward the progress, training, and growth of their staff.

5.   How do you recognize your employees’ efforts?

A direct answer to this question will also show how employees are valued by the organization and how much effort the company puts into rewarding their employees.

6.   How is the work-life balance of employees of the company?

This question can also reveal how an organization values the well-being and engagement of their employees in relation to their yield and output.

7.   Are there any opportunities to interact with top executives?

When an organization provides opportunities for staff to meet with top management, (for instance, a “special occasion” breakfast with the CEO), this indicates the significance they place on the importance of their employees as a worthy team.

8.   How does the company promote innovation and creativity, and what happens if an innovation initiative fails?

If possible, ask the interviewer for an applicable example. This will provide you with an idea of what the company expects of its employees, the amount of room allowed for individual creativity, and how employees are treated in the event of failure.


Here are some additional ways of ascertaining a company’s culture:

  • Of course, candidates must always perform sufficient online research as a first step in obtaining a general determination of the culture of an organization. Visit the organization’s corporate LinkedIn page and/or any other social media outlets you can find pertaining to the organization of interest; including the company website as well as any applicable review sites.
  • Once you’re in the door, check the walls of the company’s facilities for signs of the culture. Are there photos of employees recognized for their contributions? Do you see the company’s mission and vision posted on bulletin boards?
  • Try to observe employees working in the office. If you know someone working in the company, attempt to have a chat with him or her.

The Takeaway

Once you have taken all of these factors into consideration, simply ask yourself if you can actually picture yourself working for the company. Are you looking forward to the opportunity, or do you find yourself possibly dreading the prospect?  Be sure to trust your feelings. In the end, you, alone, will decide whether working for a specific organization is your best option.


Fred Coon, CEO


At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.