To gauge a company's real culture, ask these 2 questions about ‘unspoken rules' during a job interview

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Want to know the insider tips and tricks of a workplace? Ask about them in your next job interview, says Christine Cruzvergara, chief education officer at Handshake.

The former college career counselor has advised thousands of students at Wellesley, George Mason University, Georgetown, George Washington University and now through Handshake, a career resource for students and recent grads.

Here are her two favorite questions to ask in a job interview that will help you uncover any major red flags, and maybe a few green ones, before you accept an offer.

What are some unspoken rules in this workplace?

Cruzvergara's first favorite question gets down to brass tacks: What are some of the unspoken rules in this workplace?

"That's always really helpful in understanding the real culture of the organization," she says. Ask this of multiple people through the interview process and check, "do people all say the same thing, or do they say different things?"

If there's consistency across everyone's answers, from managers to peers to people who might report to you, then the culture truly runs deep, Cruzvergara says.

Then again, you might hear different answers by seniority.

"Some of the unspoken rules by the senior people told me one set of cultural [expectations] that I needed to know, and from my team or from the more junior people, it was something different," Cruzvergara says. "That taught me that I was walking into an environment where the experience of the company might vary depending on what level you're coming in."

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That's not necessarily good or bad, she adds, but is something to be aware of when you're new.

Another clue you can get from this question is what strengths or weaknesses you'll need to prepare for. Cruzvergara learned during her job interview at Handshake that it's a "doc- and deck-heavy culture." So if you're not a good writer, working there can be challenging, she says.

"If you can't write it down, get it in a brief, circulate it, get people to like chime in on it, your idea is probably going to die," she says. That "unspoken rule" let her know she'd need to be comfortable writing a lot for her job, and that to pitch ideas, she'd have to get the most important details on paper quickly.

These types of rules are rarely brought up proactively in job interviews, Cruzvergara says, but can tell you a lot about a team's communication and collaboration style.

Pay special attention to responses from the people who would be your immediate team members, like your peers or supervisor, as those norms matter immediately when you start your job and can impact your day-to-day.

How are decisions made in this organization?

Cruzvergara says another question can help you gauge the work environment of a new company: How are decisions made? Who is usually involved, and how long does it take?

That can tell you a lot about whether you'll like it there, Cruzvergara says. For example, if you tend to like more democratic environments and a hiring manager tells you decisions are made top-down from the C-suite, that might frustrating for you. On the other hand, if you value speed and efficiency over everyone weighing in, going into environment where decisions are made after several rounds of meetings "could drive you absolutely crazy," Cruzvergara says.

Not sure what style suits you? Look to two places, Cruzvergara suggests.

First, how were decisions made in your home? For example, were your parents more unilateral and "everything I say goes?" Next, how did you feel about that? Did you rebel, or did you go along with things?

Second, how were decisions made at school, like for student groups, group projects, or when playing a sport?

For example, you might recall you hated when you couldn't reach a decision on a team because everyone needed to voice their opinion and no one took the lead to move things forward. Or, you might have disliked when one person took the lead on a group project and didn't let everyone participate.

Those are really good indicators of how you might have felt in different group environments, and how you might feel in similar situations at work, Cruzvergara says.

None of these questions and responses mean anything if you don't do a little self-reflecting about your values, your wants in a work setting, and an understanding of how you work best, she adds.

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