Lab Notes
GoKart Lab Interview

How to Interview Your Future Employer

If you’ve been working in the digital space for a while you know why company culture is so important. But, you have to look past the ping pong tables, cool workspaces and happy hours to see where the real culture starts to emerge.

The values, the rituals and the habits that companies develop are so much more important than the surface level stuff.

So, how do you know if the culture is right at that cool digital agency you’re considering? Remember, you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you.

There’s no decoder ring, but we’ll share versions of the questions we use to learn more about our candidates. Hopefully, by sharing these questions, we can help you find a great fit for yourself.

Questions you should ask in your interview:

Question 1: Share about a time where things got really confusing on one of your projects? How does that confusion get resolved? 

What you’re hoping to hear: “Everyone is responsible for seeking clarity and getting down to specifics and resolving the ambiguity”.

What you don’t want to hear: some variation on “the boss/PM/Acct Leader/someone else figures it out”. You want to listen for how hierarchical the decision making is, or signs that hard calls or confusion needs to get resolved by someone more senior.

Question 2: How do your teams handle situations that get emotional or dramatic?

What you’re hoping to hear: “We look for ways to plan and collaborate so things don’t get dramatic or overly emotional. That’s a sign of either bad planning or teams out of balance. Our people are fully committed, but make decisions on facts and business acumen”.

What you don’t want to hear: any signs that the culture tolerates dramatics, volatile personalities or a false sense of urgency. Look for what we call the “no brilliant a-hole” policies.

Question 3: How do your teams avoid being hierarchical?

The background on this question: Hierarchical-thinking is culture killer. It’s a sign that teams are waiting to be told what to do. Or, they’re deferring too many questions to “the boss” or the more senior person on the team. In the worst situations, it’s a way for individuals to avoid making hard decisions or to blame problems on “leadership”.

What you hope to hear: Indicators that they recognize it’s a challenge they need to work on, and a commitment to encourage their teams to make their own decisions and recommendations. Self-directed teams and individual ownership are the ways to avoid getting too bureaucratic.

What you don’t want to hear: Lack of acknowledgement of the issue or passive acceptance of it.


Question 4: What are you doing to improve your workplace culture

What you’re hoping to hear: “We’re committed to making sure this is a place where we can do great work and feel proud of how we do it” or “we work on it every day by reinforcing our values, frequent feedback so our work keeps improving and fostering stronger relationships between our team”. In other words, the company sees culture development as important work, has a good plan for it, and the leaders can explain the plan.

What you don’t want to hear: Something that sounds like “We have lots of happy hours and we just bought a new ping pong table”.

GoKart is a digital invention & growth lab, a recognized ‘Top Place to Work’, and one of Inc’s Fastest Growing Private Companies in America. To learn more about our services, contact us here: [email protected]

A thought leader among modern marketers, Jim brings a whole pile of experience (from start-ups to big brands), wisdom and humility to the GoKart garage. We say we’re lucky to have him, he says he’s lucky to be here… it’s a fight neither of us will win. He’s a man of diverse passions. Jim could open a restaurant, create its brand, craft the menu, cook the food, brew the beer and deliver it by bicycle (even if you live 100 miles away).

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