Key Culture Questions: What to Ask Before Taking a New Design Job

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The interview processes when hunting for a new design job can often feel long and grueling. It can feel like we are on the defense, explaining our work and showcasing our problem-solving skills to various groups of interviewers. The conversation might seem one-sided. But finding the right cultural fit is essential to success and happiness in a new design role. It's not just about impressing potential employers; we need to interview them too.

Why company culture matters for designers

In design, company culture is more than a buzzword; it's a vital aspect that can significantly impact your creativity and collaboration. So, how can you ensure you're walking into a positive environment that supports your growth and aligns with your overall values?

  1. Ask about the last employee who left the team and why
    Understanding why someone left can provide a glimpse into the company's inner workings. Is there a high turnover rate? Were there unresolved conflicts? Does the story of them leaving seem strange? This question might reveal insights into management style, team dynamics, or even potential red flags.
  2. Ask about their work-life balance policies and flexible hours
    Designers often thrive on flexibility. Questions about work-from-home options, flexible hours, and work-life balance can shed light on whether the company values your well-being and creativity outside the standard hours.
  3. Ask how managers get employee feedback and how often it's collected
    Feedback is a cornerstone of growth. Inquiring about how managers collect feedback and how often can offer a window into how much the company values open communication and feedback across the team.
  4. Ask about how often you'll have check-ins with your manager
    Regular check-ins can foster a sense of connection and alignment. This question helps you gauge how accessible leadership is and whether you'll have a direct line to decision-makers.
  5. Ask about what happened the last time an employee failed at something
    Failure is an inevitable part of the creative process. Asking how the company handles failure can reveal whether there's a supportive environment that sees failure as a learning opportunity, or if hitting deadlines is the only thing that matters.
  6. Ask how managers coach employees through a weakness
    Coaching is essential in helping designers overcome challenges. This question explores the company's approach to professional development and how they invest in the growth of their employees. Does it seem ad-hoc, or are there specific coaching processes in place?
  7. Ask about remote work considerations
    With the rise of remote working, understanding how to gauge a company's remote work culture might be essential. Consider asking about remote collaboration, communication tools, and virtual team-building.
  8. Ask about diversity and inclusion
    Engage in a dialogue about how the company fosters diversity and inclusion. Look for genuine initiatives and attitudes that enrich the creative process.

Above all, look for signs of open/honest conversation

Interviews are a two-way street. Look for signs of candidness and transparency. A company that encourages open dialogue is likely to foster the same within its walls. If you feel like you aren't being told the whole story, it's better to press and ask about that now, rather than once you take a job and discover red flags. If you are rejected because you ask too many questions, it wasn't a great place to work in the first place.

Go ask questions

Finding the right fit as a designer goes beyond evaluating the technical aspects of the job. These questions can help you gain a clearer picture of what daily life might be like at the prospective company. Prioritize alignment with your values and look for signs of a healthy, supportive culture that champions creativity, growth, and open communication. Now go out there and ask questions! 🎨