5 Common Interview Responses That Can Be Interpreted Two Different Ways

You arrive to your interview prepared with a list of questions to ask the hiring manager. But, when he answers them, you only feel more confused.

That’s because common answers could be interpreted different ways. And, depending on what the interviewer really means, this company may—or may not—be the right fit for you.

Employee reviews on Glassdoor or—shameless plug—profiles on The Muse are definitely helpful for learning about company culture. But to make sure you have a clear idea of what it’d be like to work somewhere, don’t be afraid to follow up with a second question.

Of course, you’ll want it to get to the heart of what’s not quite clear.

To do that, pay attention to these five common lines that can stump you—and what to say back to make sure you get the real inside scoop on company culture.

1. “We Stay Until the Work Is Done”

The Good Spin: “We offer flexible hours—people go home early when they complete their work sooner than expected.”

The Cover-up: “You’re expected to live at the office and stay all hours of the night.”

The first tells you work-life balance is valued. The second says you’re going to be leaving long after dark (a lot).

Use These Follow-up Questions

“What time does your team typically come in and leave?” or “Is the workload fairly constant, or does it flare up during certain times of the year?”

The answers here will give you a sense of whether working late happens occasionally, at certain times, or often.

2. “We Have Fun Here”

The Good Spin: “We’re a close-knit team, accepting of new people and social outside of work.”

The Cover-up:“ “You have to want to socialize with your colleagues to fit in,” and even, “You won’t fit in well if you don’t like to socialize over alcohol.”

It’s great to find a culture that cares about teammates genuinely get along—not so great if that’s code for an expectation to spend your social life at the office, too.

Use These Follow-up Questions

“What kind of fun things does the team do together?” or “How often do these social events take place?”

If your interviewer lists commonly occurring activities, like events and fundraisers, it means the company makes an effort to keep their team connected. But if they only list office happy hours, you know that socializing here will be more about just hanging out, than say, community involvement.

3. “You Must Be a Team Player”

The Good Spin: “We take only the best: effective workers who pull their weight and work well with others.”

The Cover-up: “All efforts—and all credit—are shared. You won’t be happy here if you like to work independently or thrive on competition.”

You’ll want to determine if they value collaboration, or if you’ll never be allowed to work on a solo project.

Use These Follow-up Questions

“What’s the split between collaborative and independent projects in this role?”or “How do you measure the success of group projects?”

These answers will give you insight into how much ownership you’ll have over your work and if it’s a “go along to get along” culture.