When you’re in a job interview there comes a time at the end when you are invited to ask your questions of those interviewing you. The standard advice is to have done some research on the company and ask questions related to what you have found there. Something that shows that you are aware of the company and what they are about.

If you are looking for more meaning in your work, it might be time to turn that on its head.

You can’t really know what the culture is, presumably, until you have worked at the company. Now, you may try asking them to describe the work culture, but how informative will that be?

The best questions help reveal values and mindset

How about, if instead, you asked them to name someone in the company that they admire and why.

Then, ask them to tell you about a project, event or an area of responsibility which they learned the most. If they need some clarity, say it could be about themselves, their team or the systems of the company.

When we begin a new job, we invest a third or more of our lives in that environment. If we are serious about wanting to craft a life in and out of work, in which we are fully engaged, wouldn’t it be great to know we can be?

The first question, about who they admire and why, tells quite a bit about the interviewer and their values. It also gives a glimpse of how invested and engaged in the company they are. Who did they name? What position does that person have and are they in the same department or another? Even body language when answering the question is telling. Do their eyes light up or are they uncomfortable as they scramble for an answer. Or do they even have one?

Not only is this telling of the person you asked the question of, but of the company as a whole. How connected are the various departments? Do knowledge silos exist? Is there collaboration?

Then, with regards to the second question about the project from which they learned the most – see how that is couched. Are they able to list some top learning points? Do they take responsibility, share the wins or is there any sense of blame?

The thing is, that the best cultures are those in which everyone, from the leaders down, realize that every person has a part to play and that continued growth adds value.

The right questions shed light beyond publicly available information

Daniel Coyle’s book, The Culture Code examines how cultures thrive and fail. As he notes on how purpose is built, “High-purpose environments don’t descend on groups from on high; they are dug out of the ground, over and over, as a group navigates its problems together and evolves to meet the challenges of a fast-changing world.””

There is a “feel” about groups and their cultures. When you are casting for the right place to be, it is worthwhile to take your time to find a good fit by asking the questions that will fill in some of the insight to make a good decision.

While millennials may be more overt in their desire to connect with purposeful work, as a society we all benefit when we are more connected and interested in what we do. Resorting to “rote” or disengaging in one area, inevitably leads to discontent in others.

So, the next time you are interviewing for a position, consider asking some non-standard questions. You may find that these are more illuminating than asking them what the opportunities are for growth in your department.

 

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