Accepting any job or internship offer is stressful for a few reasons, but one that I have always been particularly concerned about is whether or not I will fit in with the office culture. While having the perfect office culture may not make or break an opportunity in my eyes, I would definitely prefer to commit to an office where I feel included, valued, and comfortable.
One strategy I have found incredibly helpful in gathering some more insight into office culture before having to fully commit has to do with my favorite part of the application process: the interview. I always knew asking the interviewer a few well-thought-out, personalized questions was important, but I only recently realized how helpful specificity can be, especially when it comes to office culture.
What do I mean by that? While I could ask generally “What is the work environment here like?” or “How would you describe the office culture?” I have found that interviewers answer these questions in vague ways that don’t really tell me many of the concrete details I am looking for. So, I have developed a list of more specific questions that get at the various components of office culture I’m curious about more directly. Here are a few:
- What does the current strategic plan look like? How was this strategic plan determined? – Information about the strategic plan can tell you more about what the office values and prioritizes beyond what is listed on their website or in their mission statement. Additionally, information about who is involved in making these decisions can be helpful in determining how much say individuals in your role or comparable positions have in higher-level decision making.
- Who would the person in this role collaborate with most frequently and in what capacity? – This answer will tell you more about whether the majority of your work will be done independently or with others. It may also tell you some more about the nature of the relationships your predecessor had in the role.
- What does the first week generally look like for new employees in this office? – This question will provide information about what your transition to the office may look like, including whether or not there will be structured opportunities for you to establish connections with all staff members right off the bat.
- What does lunch look like in the office? – This can give you information about the nature of the relationships between staff members and the flexibility (or lack thereof) around socializing in the office.
- What strategies do you, as a supervisor, use to support and motivate your team? – This answer may give you insight in to your future supervisor’s supervisory style, including what their expectations of their supervisees are, how they give feedback, and how they define support.
Of course, even with the answers to these questions, you still may not have a full picture of what the office culture will be like. So, it’s ultimately up to you to consider the information you have gathered and what your gut is telling you to make a decision.
If you have any questions about interviewing, the job/internship search, or anything else related to this process, schedule an appointment at the Center for Career Development to talk through your options.