7 Questions Candidates Might Ask About Your Corporate Culture

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By Robert Half December 14, 2018 at 5:35pm

When the national unemployment rate is low, highly skilled accounting and finance professionals are harder than ever to find. And when you do discover top talent available for hire, they’re often fielding multiple job offers.

To land these sought-after candidates, be prepared to champion your firm’s corporate culture. If you’re like many senior financial executives today, you’ll be well-prepared to talk details about this topic with candidates. A recent Robert Half Management Resources survey found that more than half (51 percent) of chief financial officers (CFOs) are at least somewhat involved in shaping their organization’s corporate culture. Nearly one-fifth of those respondents report that they are very involved.

Today’s job candidates seek employers that offer work styles and values that align with their own — in addition to competitive compensation and attractive benefits. And they won’t hesitate to interview you about how your workplace operates. Following are some questions you might hear from candidates, and how best to answer them:

1. How would you describe your company’s culture?

This question cuts right to the chase — but answering it can be tricky. Corporate culture is a broad topic that encompasses everything from the company's emphasis on work-life balance to its commitment to community outreach and sustainable business practices.

When describing your company's culture to a potential hire, think about what makes your organization a great place to work. Aside from profitability and efficiency, what are you working toward? For example, is your firm focused on continuous innovation, and embracing new technologies? Is enhancing the customer experience a top priority?

And think about your current employees: How do they communicate and collaborate? What motivates them? How do they manage work-life balance (and how does the business help them to do that)? If possible, include proof points, such as a low turnover rate, to help demonstrate that you’re fostering a work environment where professionals feel content.

2. What are some ways that you invest in your employees’ careers?

Talented professionals want to know they’re more than just another cog in the machine. So, be sure to talk up all the professional development or training opportunities that your organization offers. These efforts may include reimbursement for conferences, certification courses and exams, and memberships to professional associations.

Don’t forget to tout your in-house efforts, too, such as lunch-and-learn sessions, guest speakers and a formal mentorship program.

3. How long have you been with the company?

Hiring managers watch for red flags during the interview, and so do job seekers. One of the signs that tell good candidates to run away is a lot of short tenures. So, be proud of the number of years you’ve been with the organization. It’s even better if you can talk about internal promotions. If you’ve recently joined the company, mention how long your main employees have worked there.

But more than the number of years, what candidates really want to know is why you like your job. So, you'll want to list some reasons why you choose to stay with the firm rather than exploring opportunities elsewhere.

4. What does your company do to promote diversity in the workforce?

A diverse team sparks more innovation than a homogenous group, and socially conscious candidates look for evidence that a future employer values inclusion as much as they do.

Talk about your company's commitment to diversity, and the hiring practices it applies to ensure its workforce includes people of different races, ethnicities, genders, generations, geographical backgrounds, work histories, personality types and more.

5. What happens here when an employee fails?

Talented accounting and finance professionals want to work in an environment that encourages smart risk-taking. Come up with a few real examples to share with the candidate about previous failures that became learning opportunities — and how employees were encouraged to apply those lessons and, in turn, improved results.

6. How does your company or department celebrate achievements?

The underlying question here is, “How do you show your employees you appreciate them?” Not many people want to work for a firm that doesn’t value their contributions.

Mention employee recognition programs and incentive structures for top performers. Describe the different ways that you thank your workers for a job well done, from delivering verbal kudos to providing spot bonuses.

7. What corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs does your company have?

Accounting and finance professionals are increasingly interested in working for organizations that share their social values. Research from Robert Half Management Resources backs this up: Six in 10 CFOs said social responsibility programs enhance their firm's recruiting and retention officers.

If your company doesn’t currently have a formal CSR program, consider alternative options, such as offering employees paid time off for volunteering opportunities. Also, be sure to mention the charities and nonprofits that your business works with — and the positive outcomes stemming from that involvement.

Turning the tables: Assessing candidates’ organizational fit

Company culture fit goes both ways. To help keep morale high and turnover low, you want to hire people who mesh with your unique work environment. Here are some questions you can ask to determine whether candidates will be a good match for your firm:

  • What type of work environment best suits you?
  • Do you typically consider your coworkers as friends, or do you prefer to keep things purely professional?
  • What’s an example of a time you took a risk at work? How did it turn out, and what did you learn from the experience?

When it comes to something as important as corporate culture, it’s only natural for both job seekers and employers to want to know more. The better you can answer questions about your organization’s values and your team’s work style — and gauge candidates’ answers to your similar questions — the better chance you have of making a great hire.

For more insight on the importance of corporate culture in hiring and retention, and tips for talking about your workplace culture with potential hires, download Robert Half’s free report, Organizational Culture: The Make-or-Break Factor in Hiring and Retention.

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