Among the employees who indicate they are looking to leave their current employer, they cite culture as the main reason for leaving. Cultural fit is now deemed as a crucial part of hiring. Many employers are now sharing personality assessment tests to candidates to better separate out the ones who will integrate better.

Culture is shaped by a variety of factors such as organisational structure, management, industry, HR policies, and incentives. There are also micro-cultures within the overall company culture and it’s difficult for candidates to get an accurate sense of the culture they are about to walk into during the interview process. The most common mistake made by the candidates is trying to change their answers, CVs, and cover letters to present themselves as appealing as possible to the prospective employers just to get the offers. While some tactical maneuvering is inherent in improving the chances of being selected for an interview, trying too hard to play the part may allow the candidates to lose valuable opportunities to learn more about what it’d be like to be an employee of such companies and whether or not that will be the ideal environment for themselves and their career goals.

When you are looking for a job, you should remember that you are interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you. Even if the power dynamics seem skewed, any interview process is a two-way dialogue. So how do you interview your interviewer?


Ask Deeper and Harder Questions

Employers and interviewers appreciate candidates who ask a lot of thoughtful questions. A candidate will often meet with at least 2-3 different people during the process, including a recruiter and a hiring manager. You’ll likely want to engage the most with the hiring manager and anyone else from the team you will be joining. One way to drive this dialogue is by a scenario-based approach. Questions such as “What would happen if there’s a disagreement in the team?” can be helpfully revealing. Always ask for examples to get more context.

You can also request that you speak with other members of the team such as your peers or others who’d been in the role you’re trying to fill. Employers will often accommodate such requests as they also prefer to onboard new employees who wouldn’t regret their decisions down the road. This way, you will be able to get more diverse perspectives and get input from people who will have less incentives to only tell you positive things.

You will also want to do some research about any scandals or headlines regarding the company and see what former and current employees have said about their experience on sites such as Glassdoor. If any of them are interesting or alarming, bring it up gently during the interview to get a better explanation. It’ll also show the employer that you have done your homework and you are attentive to details. It demonstrates that you are taking the process very seriously.

Be Upfront About Who You Are and What You Are Looking For

We all massage our messaging via our resume, cover letter, or interview responses to present our best selves. However, it is actually in the best interest of all parties if you are upfront and honest about what you need and value. The best place to highlight who you are as a person is in your cover letter. A good cover letter includes a situational example where you show both professional and personal attributes. It’s a great way to show the employer a deeper layer of who you are and also what values are important to you. You can even explicitly highlight what type of opportunities and work environment you are looking for in your cover letter.

Get a Better Sense of The Overall Org Structure

The design of the org could give you many clues about its culture. Are Marketing and Sales in the same organisation? Are the teams structured to collaborate rather than work in silos? How are the handovers designed? Even if you are part of the greatest team in the world, if the overall org is designed to not respond to change, not put the customers first, or not incentivised to collaborate openly, then you will feel restricted and frustrated. One good way to get a quick sense of the overall org design is by asking how they create, design, execute, and support new products. How are the ideas generated? Who decides where to invest? Which teams are involved and when? These questions will help you understand what it’ll be like to move the needle in that company.