In my last blog post, I encouraged thoroughly investigating the culture you’re thinking of joining. In the comments, some people agreed they needed to learn about culture but were unsure how to approach it. A few were skeptical. I believe you can learn about culture, even in the early stages. Here are suggestions about how to structure your inquiry.

To get started, be clear what culture to learn about. In a large institution, there may be big differences across departments. Cultures also can be moving targets. Large institutions may change with their environment. In start-ups, expect everything to be different a year later.

Be sure to understand the role you’d have, what you could accomplish, and what you’d learn. A strong culture will set people up for success, and you need to be sure that’s in place. In discussing your role, you’ll also get insight into how the place works.

Then, ask questions that point the discussion to how the organization works. General questions — “What’s the culture like?” or “Are people treated well?” — seldom work. I’ve come up with specific sample questions you can ask as you’re interviewing for a job or talking with others who know the institution. They’re grouped into six topic areas.