What Culture Do You Want in a New Job? Part 2

You have your lists from What Culture Do You Want in a New Job, Part 1. That means you have six lists:

  • Three things you enjoyed talking about at work
  • Three things you shook your head about, or made you say, “Huh, what is going on here?”
  • Three things that you enjoyed about how the organization/managers treated you
  • Three things that about how the organization that made you crazy, that drove you away from the organization
  • Three things about rewards or recognition that attracted you to the organization
  • Three things about rewards or recognition that turned you off

Now, remember when I said you should Ask Questions of the Hiring Manager and the Interview Team? This is your chance to craft questions and ask them.

Select Your Questions

You can’t just ask all of the questions, all in a row. You need think, “What’s going to make the most difference to me?” You might want to rank these items in these lists. Not everything makes the same difference to you.

Do not go down the list of questions of things drive you crazy. NO. Do NOT do that. You need to craft these questions and ask them carefully.

I’m not big on paternal organizations, as opposed to you, who might like them. This is about how the organization treats you. I hate mandatory fun. I’m okay with holiday parties, but I don’t like summer picnics. I don’t like Halloween parties where the managers have to dress up. I don’t like having to shill for any charities. That is not my thing. So, I am going to ask questions about that. Is it a make-or-break thing in the culture? Maybe not. But it’s something I want to know about.

Here’s how I’ll craft the question. First, I’ll use a closed question to see what the organization does, and if the answer is yes, ask for more data:

Do you have company parties for holidays?… Under what circumstances?

I once had to dress up for a Halloween party. Do you do that here?

Notice that I leave my emotional reaction out of it. I am asking for data. Just ask for data. No leading questions. If the answer is yes, I’ll let the interviewer lead, and go where the interview takes me.

Now, I feel very strongly about not collecting for charity or pushing political organizations at work. I’ll ask the same kind of questions:

Do you have a United Way or other charitable campaign here?

We had a really active political season in 2011. Do you have a policy on politics at the office?

I was consulting to a bank in one of the election years when Bush-the-younger was running. A very senior manager was wearing a Bankers-for-Bush button, and Bush paraphernalia was all over his office. He asked me point-blank if I was voting for Bush. I told him it was none of his business. He told me Bush was good for banks. I told him I was voting for the good of the country. I asked him if he was using his position to tell his people how to vote. He said, “Heck, yes!” I explained that was not a good use of his managerial power and might be illegal.

Your questions might be about meetings (how many) or continuous integration (how do you do it here) or testing (tell me how you do testing here).

When you ask questions about the things that make you crazy, you want to ask for data first. When you ask questions such as “Tell me how you do continuous integration here,” you are making an assumption that people know what CI is. This gives them the benefit of the doubt, which is a nice thing to do. You have also turned this into a behavior-description question. You can then ask, “How did CI work on your most recent project?” Same thing with testing, or any other practice that you’ve noticed makes you crazy at your current job.

Do you see how asking for data, these closed questions, start a conversation? They often get you just enough information. Especially if you have your list of questions.

In Part 3, I’ll discuss when to ask which questions.

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