Uncover Association Culture with Savvy Interview Questions

May 3, 2021 Staff Writer

There’s a moment in most job interviews when the hiring manager will ask you if you have any questions about the association. Take the opportunity to ask about the culture.

In a recent Fast Company article, Karen Eber advises the one question you shouldn’t ask is, “Can you describe the culture here?” More than likely, you’ll get a vague, generic answer centered on the association’s mission or vision.

What you really need is indication of what’s important to this group of people. At PROPEL, we define culture as “the collection of words, actions, thoughts, and ‘stuff’ that clarifies and reinforces what is truly valued inside an organization.” In order to get at the culture, however, you’ll need to ask specific questions.

RELATED ARTICLE>> The Perfect Culture Fit

10 Questions to Ask to Uncover an Association’s Culture

  • If you could change something about the association, what would it be?

    Beware of an answer that’s too quick or meant to be humorous. You want an honest answer.

  • Tell me about how the association recognizes a team’s success.

    The answer will give you an idea of how often recognition comes and in what form.

  • Tell me about a team failure and how the team handled it.

    You need to know if risk-taking is encouraged or if you should play it safe.

  • Tell me about a time when the team had to make a decision when there was conflict and tension was high?

    You want to know what the conflict-resolution process is and who has the final say.

  • How do successful employees like to give and receive feedback?

    The answer will tell you if there is a process in place, what the feedback channels are, and when it’s appropriate to share. Make sure you’re comfortable with the structure.

  • How do you support and develop your team?

    You want to know if employee development is encouraged on both a personal and a team level.

  • Does the company sponsor volunteer events or match charitable contributions?

    The answer can help you determine how much charitable impact the company has.

  • How often do you check in with the office during holidays and vacations?

    You can determine if you can completely disconnect during personal time off.

  • Tell me about the flexible work arrangements your employees have.

    You might be part of a remote team or your company may require all employees to work in the office. It’s good to know up front. If you want to work from home exclusively, this question should help you make a decision.

  • Tell me about the career path for people in this team?

    When previous team members left, where did they go? Were they promoted in the company, to another team, or outside the association?

With some polite probing, you can discover many things about the culture of a new association before you start a new job. Of course, you’ll want to visit their website and check out any online reviews, but be wary of reviews that are radically positive or negative. Look for the trend.

If you arrive at the interview a few minutes early, use the time to observe the staff as they come and go. You can learn a few things about how the office operates just by observing. And if the interview – and the workplace – is all remote, this still applies.

If you know what environment suits you best, you can evaluate a prospective employer for those specific options. After all, finding a good fit between association and employee is the objective of interview in the first place. 

Our culture-driven performance coaching program will teach you how to build a dynamic and agile learning organization that is focused on results—through the proven methodology behind the Rockefeller Habits plus an action-oriented focus on culture. 

Photo by Walter Sturn

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