The Best Question You’ve Never Asked in an Interview

Posted by Sarah Lewis-Kulin on May 06 2013

sarah_lewis-kulin By Sarah Lewis-Kulin

“So,” says your smiling interviewer, “What questions do you have for us?”

By now your prospective employer has told you all about the job and benefits package and you’ve researched the state of the business thoroughly. What you really want to know is, “Hey, am I going to like it here? What are you all like when you are not on your interviewing best behavior?”

One of the best clues to understanding what it’s really like to work at a company you are considering is to find out about its company icons. These potent symbols often express the values of a company (and sometimes its sense of humor) in a way you would never otherwise hear.

Here are three companies with quirky icons and what it says about them.

A Straightjacket

Is this crazy? At Rackspace, there is no higher honor than being laced into a straightjacket … on a stage … for all your colleagues to see.

The “Fanatical Jacket” award is the most coveted recognition a Racker can receive. It is awarded once a month to one of the web-hosting company’s more than 3,500 employees. The winner is literally strapped into a straightjacket in front of all his or her colleagues as a senior leader describes the Racker’s exceptional efforts on behalf of his/her customers. The jacket symbolizes the company’s widespread and employee-inspiring focus on providing “Fanatical support in all that we do.” This peer-nominated and –selected award is felt to be the ultimate sign of respect, and is intentionally given out in front of new hires to encourage them to aim for this level of fanaticism as well!

A Traveling Rock

Congratulations! You’ve won a … rock. No, it’s really meant to be a good thing. Stand-out individuals at this geotechnical engineering consulting firm in Northern California receive the “ENGEO Rocks” Traveling Rock. The rock travels from honoree to honoree, who get to take a photo with it and pass it on.

While a rock may seem like an odd choice for an award, it is the perfect representation of ENGEO’s quirky sense of humor, encapsulating the kind of work the company does, its team spirit, and its love of geologic-puns. (Employees are also invited to “rock the boat” by asking management tough questions in team meetings.)

The award also represents the company’s respectful and empowering stance with employees. While the Traveling Rock is meant to recognize employees that demonstrate exemplary “ENGEO-ness,” there is no official definition of that ENGEO-ness. The most common definition is the desire to ensure the success of others, but as in all other areas of this employee-owned business, people are encouraged to take ownership of their own vision.

1,000 Origami Cranes

Every day when you walk in and out of Millennium’s headquarters, you will see 1,000 paper origami cranes suspended in their lobby. (The cranes were inspired by the Japanese tradition of senbazuru, which promises that if a person folds 1,000 cranes, s/he will be granted a wish.) Enclosed within the cranes are handwritten notes from employees, patients, families and healthcare providers expressing their passionate prayers for a cure for cancer.

Employees at the Japanese-owned biopharmaceutical company say they are “amazingly crazy for patients” and are focused not on achieving incremental steps in fighting cancer, but their driving aspiration to find a full cure. The cranes reflect this daily driving ambition, as well as the company’s attention to providing a workplace that has space for inspiration, fun, balance and collegiality in the face of its enormous goals.


... And, psst, if you come to interview at Great Place to Work (which produces Great Rated!), make sure you stick your head in Drew Goldstein and Kelly Tobin’s offices. You’ll see an enormous hand-me-down silver cup trophy with photos of all the first-place winners of our annual Kwirky Contest pasted to it, and leftover SWAG from running our Best Companies’ lists stuffed inside.

The contest is one of our favorite times of the year, giving employees a chance to show off our Kwirkiest selves (so quirky we don’t even spell it right) in skits and songs, choreographed ribbon dances, and instructional home videos. The Kwirky Contest reflects our people’s value to be individuals with interesting talents outside work and to feel free to bring our whole fun, authentic, unique, real, selves to work. It helps everyone to stay humble and grounded when you go to work with someone you last saw in cheerleading outfit and a wig!

What unusual icons do you see around your workplace? What does it say about where you work?