OfferZen Updates: 4 Questions to Ask to Evaluate a Company’s Remote Culture

4 Questions to Ask to Evaluate a Company’s Remote Culture

By Kat Ten Velthuis

When deciding to join a team, one of the most important aspects candidates consider is the company culture. Now that the whole world has gone remote, it’s become harder than ever to assess not only what this is like in general, but also how a company has adapted its culture to an online setting. Here are four key questions we’ve put together to help you navigate this.

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I’m on the team at OfferZen that helps software makers find their dream job by guiding them through the interviewing process. Now that all of this has gone online, we’ve had a lot of queries on how to know whether or not a company is the ‘right fit’, or what it would be like to join a completely remote team.

To help make it easier to better gauge the ‘intangibles’ that normally play a big role in the decision to accept an offer or not, we’ve compiled a list of key questions that you can ask your interviewer to get a more comprehensive idea of what it would be like to work with them in a completely online environment:

  • What tools do you use to communicate as a team?
  • How do you maintain a sense of community remotely?
  • How do you handle feedback in a remote context?
  • What are your company’s values?

Here’s why these questions are useful for gauging a company’s culture in more detail.

What tools do you use to communicate as a team?

One of the hardest parts about going remote is figuring out how to maintain effective communication lines so that a team can continue to work efficiently.

At OfferZen, for example, we rely heavily on collaboration, both within our direct teams and with other teams. It’s been very important to build up an online toolkit that allows us to do this as easily as possible. You can find out more about the multiple platforms and apps we’ve incorporated into our remote workflow here.

How do you maintain a sense of community remotely?

A physical office develops its own personality through inside jokes, shared experiences and collaboration. Finding out how a company is trying to translate this into an online environment will help you understand how you’d go about settling in with your new team.

Ask your interviewer if you can meet some of the people you’d be working with over video call. This will give you a better idea of the type of people they are and you’ll get a first feel of how they communicate.

At OfferZen, we regularly have team events involving everyone in the company to build and maintain relationships with each other. We’ve found this especially important now that we don’t see each other every day, so our Office Manager, Zsa, is finding super creative ways for us to stay connected, such as playing online games as a group on Friday afternoons.

One of our partner companies, Luno, has also spent a lot of time getting this right, and you can read more about how they’re keeping their team connected here. We also hosted a podcast with representatives from Jumo, Allan Gray, Equal Experts, Matchbox Solutions, Luno and Nomanini to discuss how they’ve approached going fully remote in response to COVID-19.

How do you handle feedback in a remote context?

One of the most important team dynamics to gauge when deciding whether or not to join a new team is understanding how they approach giving feedback. Everyone responds to feedback differently, so knowing how the company thinks about it, and how they deliver it, is useful in determining whether it would help you grow within the role.

Ask how the team navigated a difficult situation, and listen out for what resonates both positively and negatively with you as they talk. Taking notes is also useful because you can reflect on them later, and compare them to past experiences you’ve had.

As a new joiner, it’s also super important to know you’re supported and able to gauge how you’re making progress. Make sure you understand how regular contact with your team lead will be set up.

Pro tip: Ask your future manager how the two of you would go about staying aligned on priorities and expectations in this remote setting.

What are the company’s values?

We’ve found that having a clear set of ‘rules to live by’ as a company has been key to keep us aligned on our mission during this uncertain time.

As a remote team, you won’t get to see these values ‘in real life’, so ask your interviewer what the company’s north star is, and if there was only one thing to focus on, what it would be. Ask them what ‘living’ this value looks like in practice.

This can help you understand not only what’s important to them as a group, but also how they think during hard times.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions around how the company is thinking about navigating this global crisis, in both the long and short term. Don’t worry about scaring off a company by doing this – from what I’ve seen, it shows them that you think critically and are taking the potential of joining their team seriously.

At the end of the day, you want to sign a contract feeling as secure as possible, so understanding how a company pulls together as a group, during both tough and good times, is the best way to do this.


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