Is the Firm's Office Culture a Right Fit? 5 Questions to Ask in Your Interview

Congratulations!

You’ve perfected your resume and cover letter and made it to the final rounds of interviews at the firm where you really want to work. 

All you need to do is hear the salary and you’re set, right?

Wrong!

When interviewing for jobs, I’ve found that many candidates put a lot of emphasis on salary and not nearly enough on office culture. Granted salary is important, but office culture is even more important because it is often the difference between waking up excited to go to work and waking up dreading going in and counting the minutes until you leave. Anyone who has had a horrible boss or annoying coworkers knows that a lot of times the money isn’t worth the stress and headache of a job you hate.

Office culture refers to the experiences, expectations, philosophy, values and behaviors both written and unwritten that shape the work environment. A firm’s office culture has a direct correlation with your ultimate job satisfaction and your ability to thrive and be productive in your position. This is why it is best to determine in the interview stage whether the office culture will fit with your needs and personality. 

Here are 5 questions you can ask in your interview to discover whether the firm’s office culture is a right fit for you. 

1.    What are the traits of a person who would be successful in this firm? - This is a very important question because it makes the employer highlight specifically the type of temperament and skills the firm deems important so you can gauge how you measure up. Are they looking for an ambitious, go-getter with a bubbly personality or someone who does what they are told and is more reserved?  

2.    What’s the process for bringing new people into the fold and how do you handle beginner mistakes? - Asking about the process will give you an idea of what type of support you can expect to receive and whether the firm is committed to helping its employees grow and learn. Is there training involved or is it a sink or swim type of environment? Be wary of an employer who scoffs at the idea of mistakes. It shows that the firm is likely not supportive. 

3.    How would you describe the office environment?- Pay close attention to how the work environment is described. Is the firm casual, laid-back and informal or is it very routine and regimented? Is the staff a close-knit bunch that socializes during and after work or do they keep to themselves? This is great insight as to what expect and whether the environment fits with your personality. 

4.    How does the firm respond to and resolve conflict? - Sometimes disagreements are inevitable and you want to be assured that the firm environment is one where differing opinions are respected and communicated in a healthy fashion. A workplace riddled with conflict and where employees do not feel appreciated causes high stress and leads to turnover and absenteeism. 

5.    What would your employees say are the top three reasons they love working for you? - There’s really no better way to gauge what it’s like to work at a firm than hearing the thoughts of their employees. Ask to speak with some of the employees to discuss with them their experiences. If speaking with employees is prohibited or discouraged, consider it a red flag. 

Despite what anyone tells you about the office culture, trust your intuition. Can you truly picture yourself working at the firm and with the people? Be honest with yourself. Do you have a good feeling about the firm or did a couple of things give you pause? As tempting as it may be to hurry up and accept a job offer, it is worth it to hold off if the fit isn't right to avoid being miserable in the long run.