How to Learn More About the Team You’d Work for While in an Interview
To help you delve deeper into your potential team during a job interview, we’ve gathered fifteen insightful tips from CEOs, HR Directors, and other professionals. From asking the “Do You Feel Lucky?” question to researching reviews and asking about culture, these experts provide a comprehensive guide to understanding your future colleagues better.
- Ask the “Do You Feel Lucky?” Question
- Practice Active Listening and Strategic Questioning
- Inquire About Leadership Role Expectations
- Explore the Team’s Reporting Structure
- Probe Company Culture and Interviewer’s Journey
- Discuss a Recently Completed Project
- Peruse the Company’s Social Media Activity
- Be Curious About the Team Dynamics and Coworkers
- Seek Information About the Team’s Recent Successes
- Learn About Needs and Improvements
- Discuss the Team’s Recent Accomplishments
- Identify the Team’s Biggest Challenge
- Uncover Team Rituals and Traditions
- Understand Conflict Resolution Strategies
- Research Reviews and Ask About Culture
Ask the “Do You Feel Lucky?” Question
One of my favorite interview questions, regardless of which side of the desk I’m sitting on, is, “Do you feel lucky?”
It’s such an oddball question that most people are initially stunned. Their faces look like they’re waiting for me to finish my sentence or give more context. But that’s it, that’s the question. I want to know if the person I’m going to work with feels fortunate.
The best part is there’s no way to practice ahead of time to perfect the reply. It’s just a total ice-breaker that reveals what this person really, truly feels about their own lives and the circumstances that have led them to this moment.
I’ve had people actually start crying as they tell me about the challenges they’ve faced in their lives. Every day, I am inspired by the folks that I meet who have overcome obstacles to keep their lives on track. And all of that comes pouring out with one simple question!
Practice Active Listening and Strategic Questioning
During the job interview, engage in a dialogue that reflects your genuine curiosity about the position and the company culture, strategically weaving in inquiries that delve into the heart of the role’s responsibilities and the team’s dynamics. Equally as important is the art of active listening—attentively absorbing the insights shared by the interviewer about what to anticipate in the role and the team you’d be joining.
Go into the interview with a comprehensive understanding of the team’s background, roles, and responsibilities, as this will significantly enhance your ability to respond to the interviewer’s answers thoughtfully. Through this multifaceted approach, you showcase your genuine interest in the team and exhibit your proactive mindset, ultimately establishing a foundation of rapport and understanding that resonates with professionalism, insight, and enthusiasm.
Inquire About Leadership Role Expectations
A quick way to learn more about the team you’d be working with while in a job interview is to inquire about your leadership role. Will you be expected to manage or fall in line? This question lets you know how tasks are delegated within the team.
Sometimes, projects without a clear leader still have a de facto head, and the last thing you want to do is begin stepping on toes. On the other hand, if you’re coming in to corral and organize, you’ll need to know that too. Understanding the hierarchy of the team you’d be working with is a big clue to the broader office culture, and ensures you’ll be able to step directly into the role that falls to you—if you land the job!
Explore the Team’s Reporting Structure
During job interviews, an often-overlooked path to understanding the potential team is through exploring its reporting structure. This single aspect can reveal a wealth of information about the team’s inner workings.
Imagine asking about roles within the team’s hierarchy—unveiling who leads different areas of work. This simple question paints a clear picture of leadership and responsibilities, guiding you through the team’s structure.
Delve deeper, and you might uncover whether the team operates within a matrix organization, where individuals report to multiple managers, or if it’s geared for cross-functional collaboration or siloed work. These details illuminate how tasks flow and ideas converge.
In the context of job interviews, it’s not just about getting answers, but understanding the narratives they convey. The reporting structure becomes the lens through which you view the team’s rhythm and dynamics—a unique angle to determine if this architecture aligns with your aspirations.
Probe Company Culture and Interviewer’s Journey
When I go to job interviews, my favorite questions to ask the interviewer are, “How would you describe the company culture?” and “How did you get into this industry?”
The first gives you a good idea about how the interviewer feels about the company and can give you great insight into the culture. The second question is a great way to get to know the interviewer better. When I ask this question, it usually catches them off guard in a good way. They get excited to share part of their life with someone (usually), and it helps you understand someone’s passion behind their work.
Discuss a Recently Completed Project
As a partner at Pender & Howe, a recruiting firm sourcing executives for clients ranging from pre-seed startups to global public companies, I can suggest a strategy.
To learn more about the team you’d be working with while in a job interview, try asking the hiring manager to give you an example of a recently completed, successful project.
The freshest project in their mind will likely be a big one, and their explanation of how it got done will provide insight into the inner workings of the office. You might find out who led the group; listen for a name mentioned more than others. Communication channels are often managed by one team member, so if you’re shown documentation, look for the lead author.
By keeping the focus on a project and not on personalities, you’ll look like someone invested in the company, rather than a needy applicant worried about office politics and hierarchies.
Peruse the Company’s Social Media Activity
Look at the last six months of social media activity for the company you’re applying for, and note the type of content that is being published and by whom. This will give you incredible insights not just on the type of content that the company is publishing for its target audience, but also on who handles the content on a per-sector basis.
Be Curious About the Team Dynamics and Coworkers
At the end of an interview, employers will typically ask if you have any questions for them. Many job seekers make the mistake of not taking advantage of this opportunity to find out more about their potential new workplace, but this is your chance to find out more about team dynamics and your future coworkers.
Ask questions about who will be on your team, what projects they’ve got going on, how work is divided between team members, and so on. Doing some research on the company beforehand by checking the organization’s website and social media will help you prepare effective questions.
A bonus of asking well-thought-out questions about the team you’d be joining is that it shows you’re considering how you would fit in, making you come across as genuinely interested in the role.
Seek Information About the Team’s Recent Successes
One effective tip for learning more about the potential team you’d be working with is to inquire about their recent successes. Ask an interviewer about recent accomplishments that have made a significant impact on company results.
This approach not only provides you with an understanding of the potential team’s capabilities and expertise, but also shows your interest in their achievements.
By discussing their achievements, you’ll gain a clearer picture of their strengths and the type of work you could be involved in.
Learn About Needs and Improvements
Since I’ve found that job interviews of late include multiple people, and people love to talk about themselves, one tip for learning more about the team you’d be working with while in a job interview is to start with softball questions such as, “How long have you been with the company?” Then, move on to, “What do you love about your job?” and, “What do you feel your team needs to be even better?”
I’ve also found that asking if it’s possible to meet and quickly chat with team members scores you extra points during a job interview. The three times I asked resulted in shadowing a team member while they worked, being invited to lunch by a team member, and having a team member give me a company tour. I was hired each of those times.
Discuss the Team’s Recent Accomplishments
An effective tip to learn more about the team during a job interview is to ask about the team’s recent accomplishments or projects. Inquire about their proudest achievements, recent challenges they’ve overcome, and how they collaborated to achieve success.
This not only provides insight into their capabilities but also demonstrates your enthusiasm for contributing to their ongoing efforts. It opens the door for a more candid discussion about the team’s dynamics, strengths, and areas of growth, allowing you to evaluate your compatibility with the team’s goals and values.
Identify the Team’s Biggest Challenge
If you want to learn about the team you’d be joining, then ask about the biggest challenge the team is facing. One way to go about this is with the question, “If there were one thing you would change about this team, or wished they could do better, what would that be?”
Then, let the interviewer tell you about the problem they’re looking to solve by hiring you. It could be a talent gap, a motivational issue, a problem with their process, or something else. The answer will also give you indicators of their expectations and leadership style. Keep in mind, this question is for an executive you’d be answering to.
If you’re in an early interview with someone in Human Resources, then adjust the question to reflect their opinion on the wants and needs of the decision-maker. In either case, be sure to dig deeper with additional questions based on their response. You can then use the information you collect to describe how you can help solve that specific problem.
Uncover Team Rituals and Traditions
Instead of standard questions, ask interviewers about team rituals or unique traditions. This uncovers team dynamics and values, mirroring the cultural fit principle. Just as in financial analysis, these insights offer a holistic view. It’s an innovative way to delve beyond job roles, revealing the heartbeat of the team and fostering rapport during the interview.
Understand Conflict Resolution Strategies
Ask how they handle conflict. What happens when they disagree?
Let them paint you a picture of how they handle conflict at their organization. This can provide insights into their team dynamic, interpersonal communications, team interactions, and culture.
Since it’s a less common interview question, they are likely to hear from a candidate, you may be more likely to get a truthful response, versus a pre-prepared, scripted answer, and gain valuable insights into the team and what it would be like to work there and be a contributing member of that team.
Their response will give you a peek into their dynamics and how they handle both the good and the challenges.
Research Reviews and Ask About Culture
While it might sound like a common approach, one highly effective way to understand the team you’d be joining is by researching company reviews. Platforms like Glassdoor, Yelp, Google, and other review sites can offer insights into how the company treats its employees. This information can help you determine if the team and the company culture align well with your preferences and goals.
Additionally, it’s important to pay attention to the questions the interviewer asks you. Be proactive in asking about their culture, leadership style, and the level of collaboration within the team. These questions can provide you with valuable insights to make an informed decision about joining the team.