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Asking for culture

Anonymous A asked on Mar 14, 2018

What are some good questions to ask interviewers/friends to get to know the real picture of culture in each firm/office?

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Hemant
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replied on Mar 14, 2018
Current partner @ Andreessen Horowitz (VC firm). Ex-Mckinsey, ex- strategy guy at Google.
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Agree with Vlad, but there is a way I've found useful. I ask my interviewer their best memory so far of being at the firm. It solves for two things: (1) ends the interview on a happy note (2) gives you the top-end/positive end of the culture. In any case, they won't bash their firm at the interview, so asking about their worst experience is pointless.

Vlad replied on Mar 14, 2018
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Hi,

Interviewer: I don't recommend asking the interviewer any questions that may cause negative emotions including the questions about culture. The main objective is to have a good conversation and highlight your intellectual capacity and curiosity. The last impression is always important, thus I don't recommend spoiling the impression by any negative memories that may suddenly come up to the interviewers head.

Friends: you can always ask your friends directly what's going on with the culture. Just go through the value chain in consulting. Potential pain points:

  • Promotions
  • Openness of the leadership to feedbacks
  • Up or out policy
  • General behavior of the leadership team
  • Communications with the client
  • Gender Equality
  • Long hours and related issues
  • Mentorship (Couriers counselor, DGL, etc)
  • Staffing
  • Performance reviews
  • Is it the same globally? Or it's just the local problem?

Best

Francesco replied on Mar 14, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

I agree with Vlad you should not ask questions related to negative emotions; on the other hand, a question on the company culture should not always necessarily lead to negative feelings (hopefully! I don’t think you would like to join the company otherwise).

Some questions that could be good for that are:

  • What is the thing you are most proud of that you did while at [Company Name]?
  • What is something you didn’t know about [Company Name] before joining that you found great about the company later on?
  • What do you think is the most important skill you developed which helped to have the career you had at [Company Name]?

These questions should all help you to get a general feeling of what are the key values inside the company.

Best,
Francesco