"What's the culture of the company?"

So often candidates want to know what the corporate culture is like, meaning what's in it for them. Ironically, once onboard, not all employees give back to the culture.

"What's your individual culture as an employee?" is really the question that should be asked of employees during the interview process.

Like all relationships, an employee-employer relationship is a give and take. If employees only want the positive vibe from working with good people who "give back," and they don't participate, it will slowly deteriorate the culture. Culture takers is the equivalent to death by 1,000 cuts.

A good manager and good HR business partner want to know what the employee brings culture-wise. Asking what their culture is as an employee gives you insight into how they view themselves. Did they participate in any company activities? How do they give and add back to an organization's culture? When have they helped a coworker without expecting credit? Did they attend after-work gatherings?  

Happy hours aren't the only things that matter; however, if someone never participated, that sends a message that relationships may not be important to them. For certain roles, that's okay, and for others, maybe not so much. 

If your company has a great culture, people will want to join because of it. The next time you do a reference, think about asking culture-related questions rather than accomplishments. Candidates will say they are good corporate citizens and ask the interviewer about the company's philanthropy. Share what your organization's give-back initiatives are, and then ask what role they played in their previous company's philanthropic efforts. 

Like on a team, everyone plays a role; however, you want someone who will mesh with your team, not upset the applecart.  

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Published on: Sep 27, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.