Ask These 10 Questions in a Job Interview When Your Top Priority is Finding the Best Culture Fit

This is the final segment of a three-part series on evaluating a potential new employer based on your current objectives. This series was inspired by Caleb Kaiser’s post, which was specific to startups. The questions themselves are valuable, but I’ve broken them down further and provided the answers I’d give if someone were interviewing with Atomic Object. Part one provided guidance for when your goal is maximizing compensation. Part two focused on career advancement. This final post will narrow in on finding the best culture fit.

Get a Sense of the Company’s Values

“What are the company’s core values?”

Atomic Object’s core values are: Give a Shit, Think Long Term, Own It, Share the Pain, Teach and Learn, and Act Transparently. We have written extensively about these values, which you can read about on our website and throughout our blog.

“How are these values reflected in company processes and policy?”

I can confidently say that our company values are not some long-forgotten words posted somewhere in a break room. These are referenced frequently and woven into the daily work life of any Atom. They are the basis for our recognition program. They are used when evaluating potential clients and employees.

Perhaps most importantly, they are present daily in how we conduct ourselves with each other and our clients. We are there for each other (share the pain) and help each other (teach and learn), we hold ourselves accountable (own it) and act with integrity (act transparently), we consult with our client’s best interests in mind (think long term), and we genuinely care about each other and the work we do (give a shit). And that is just one example of how you might see each value show up at Atomic.

“What kind of people – who are otherwise successful – don’t work out here?”

This is a great question. It rightfully implies that a strong culture will naturally work well for some, but not all. At Atomic, being a team player is critical to success. Those who excel at taking a task or problem and running with it independently will struggle with Atomic’s culture (i.e., teach and learn) and practices (cross-functional teams, pair programming, etc.). This blog post covers other examples of those who might not thrive at Atomic.

Bonus question: ask yourself, “Do I embody this culture?”

Be deeply honest with yourself about how well you believe you’ll fit into the company’s culture. Compromising with yourself just to get a job will create friction and resentment down the road.

Evaluate the Company’s Communication Style

“What is the general level of socializing?”

This question helps you evaluate whether the in-person work environment suits your work style. All of Atomic’s offices feature open-floor plans that help facilitate collaboration, which could be challenging for someone easily distracted. Generally, the workspace is fairly quiet as deep work is done throughout the day. Socializing is organic and often peaks around our morning team standups and afternoon breaks/walks that team members might initiate.

“Do team members have structured one-on-ones?”

In addition to meeting with your direct manager, Atomic pairs all employees with a Career Development Manager (CDM), an experienced teammate who acts as a coach and mentor. Your CDM can help you work through any challenges you’re facing and reach your professional goals. Meetings with your CDM and manager are typically structured, though you can work with both to find the right format for you.

“What are company social events like?”

Our offices hold a casual, monthly “happy hour” type of event called a Spindown. These are usually held at the office or a nearby place, and friends and family are invited to join as well. Most time at work is spent with your immediate team (project, department, etc.), so these events help build relationships across the entire office. They are not mandatory but are well-attended.

Gauge the Flexibility the Company Provides Employees

“What is the policy on remote work?”

Atomic Object is an in-person-first, hybrid workplace. All team members work in one of our offices at least three days a week. Project teams are encouraged to align on the days they will work together in person, which maximizes the benefit of co-located collaboration. In addition to the two optional remote days per week, Atomic provides additional flexibility as needed (occasional or recurring, such as a doctor’s appointment or accommodating childcare schedules).

“What is the vacation policy?”

Atomic offers generous Paid Time Off (PTO), and the amount given is based on years of experience. We also encourage employees to use a “work from anywhere” week, which might help extend a vacation or create inspiration through a change of scenery.

“Did the founders take vacations last year?”

Absolutely. All of Atomic’s leadership uses their vacation time throughout the year and strongly encourages others to do so as well. Taking time off is critical for mental well-being and sustainable professional development. Anyone can be susceptible to burnout, from CEOs to interns, so using all your vacation time each year is important.

Bonus question: ask yourself, “Are there other people in similar life situations to mine working here?”

Throughout your interview with Atomic, you will have the opportunity to meet many Atoms. You’ll hear about their unique experiences and gain insight into their situations. You can also ask to speak to others not involved in your interviews to help you develop a solid answer to this question. This bonus question should help you decide the best culture fit.

I hope this series was helpful to you, regardless of whether you’re applying to a startup, a consultancy, or any other type of business. These questions have merit regardless of industry or stage of life, so save this series and revisit it the next time you’re considering a new role.


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