Red Flags and Warning Signs in the Job Interview Process
Are you excited that you made it to the interview?
You have all the reasons to celebrate. It’s not an easy journey these days for your resume.
It has had to get through the applicant tracking system, some human hands and beat lots of competition. For all your efforts, you’ve already made considerable progress.
But as you may know, you still have a long way to go. And the interview is probably the hardest part of the journey to that dream job.
Just as you prepared and learned how to write a great resume, you have to prepare for the interview.
Much of the preparation you’ll do is meant for passing the interview. As good as that is, you also need to prepare for other possibilities.
As a job seeker, it can be difficult to look beyond your need for a job. With the pending bills and desire for financial stability, you can easily become desperate for a job.
Desperation can cost you the job because it’s not an attractive trait to have. But at the same time, it can also land you into problems.
The sad truth is that there are organizations where the people working there are wishing they weren’t. The way they are being treated is not right but since they need the money, they choose to stay.
Whether you’re desperate for a job or not, it’s important to remember to look out for yourself. Don’t allow yourself to need a job so much that you get into the wrong work environment. The stress which comes from that costs way too much.
INTERVIEW RED FLAGS AND WARNING SIGNS
Fortunately, with the right information, you can recognize a company in which working might not be as good as it looks.
Just as with many situations, there are signs which when you see them, you should get concerned. These are the red flags which warn you of possible danger ahead.
To recognize the red flags, you just have to do two things, especially after arming yourself with the information availed here. When you know the kind of things to look out for, it becomes easier to recognize them.
- Watch and listen carefully – you may think that since you’re the one being interviewed, you should only focus on impressing the interviewer. That is not the case. As much as you’re looking for a job, you don’t want to land into the wrong place.
From your interaction with the interviewer, try and gather as much information as possible about the company.
Although you should be observant from the time you walked into the company’s office, you can know a lot by paying attention to the interviewer.
Check the body language. Think about their choice of words. Take note of anything that stands out about them. Use this information to make a wise judgment about the position and company.
- Ask questions – before the interview is over, you’ll be allowed to ask questions. Ensure you have questions and don’t just ask about the pay, benefits and work-from-home options. Anything weird you noticed while watching and listening can be clarified here.
Do not settle for answers like “I’ve been working here for the past ten years. It’s a great place to work in.”
You want to know what the company is truly like.
So ask questions which require some explanations. Read our article about questions you should ask an interviewer.
Of course, not being the interviewer limits the kind of questions you can ask and how far you can go.
But with some tact, you can get some insight. Combining this with your observations can help you know what working there could be like.
Here are some warning signs to look out for. Despite being in need of a job, try not to ignore these signs. Doing so can lead to a stressful employment with negative bosses or toxic work environments.
1. The interviewer is offensive
The interviewer should be as respectful as the interviewee. Just because they are the decision makers doesn’t give them the right to be rude or insulting. If you experience this kind of behavior, then that is a big red flag.
The interviewer is largely the face of the company.
This is despite any interaction you’ve had with the receptionist. Your interviewer is the person with whom you interact at length and will answer your questions about the company.
If the interviewer is rude, then consider that it might be the norm in the company.
If not the company, maybe it’s his own nature.
But then if the company allows this kind of nature, what do you think of the other staff? What happens if everyone acts without restraint?
Furthermore, how would you work with this person if it turns out that you’ll be working under him?
If the interviewer isn’t showing respect to you now, he might not show it later.
2. There is emphasis on working hard
There is a good reason why laziness is shunned. It’s not a habit or lifestyle worth celebrating since it brings no benefits. Instead, it comes with a cost.
Employers will be most happy to see the results which come from hard work.
This is normal and expected. You most likely even have your resume stating that you are hardworking.
But when the interviewer mentions three times or more how the company values hard work, your antennas should go up. It’s very likely that the interviewer is trying to let you know the kind of work-life balance the staff have.
Research has shown that working too long or too hard isn’t necessarily the way to productivity. However, some companies don’t seem to get it. To them, hard work is the way.
Don’t be fooled. An employer talking a lot about hard work even before you’re hired, could indicate an attempt to get you to agree with their terms. It’s a way of making you see the hard work as the norm.
The problem is that you don’t know just how hard the “hard work“ is. In the worst of cases, the employees of the company could be overworked and with little pay.
If you agree with the hard work policy, you will then be binding yourself to an overworking culture. Getting out of that situation will be challenging.
3. You’re given an offer too soon
Another sure red flag is getting an offer too soon. “Too soon” might be subjective, but do you really expect only one interview in these days?
And even if you’re having only one interview, how normal is it to quickly conclude that you’re the best fit?
Every company seeks to do thorough interviews so as to hire only the best. There’s a deliberate intention to avoid the expense of training a new hire who leaves after two months. This could cause an unending cycle of hiring and re-hiring.
If you feel as if you haven’t been taken through a thorough interview but are being offered the job, just ask for 24 hours to respond.
If they push you to either take it immediately or leave it, be careful. Consider other aspects of the interview and ask yourself what the interviewer’s conduct could be pointing to.
4. The job description is vague
One of the worst thing that can happen to you is working in a position whose job description is vague.
A statement like “working on tasks assigned to you by the supervisor,” without clarity on the kind of tasks those might be, is dangerous. This could lay the ground for being overworked since all kinds of tasks are thrown your way.
More than that, you’ll not be able to make any career progress in such a work environment.
You’ll have stressful days ahead as you work on numerous unrelated tasks for the sake of moving the company forward.
Problems with vague job descriptions are usually an indicator of bigger problems with the management. In some cases, the management may be deliberately using this method to keep people under their control.
Wherever job descriptions are vague, you find employees with duplicated roles. Someone may work on this task today then someone else works on it tomorrow.
Upon asking about it, you might be told that you need to handle another task. That might be true.
But what is the real motive? That kind of confusion ensures no growth.
If for example you didn’t handle the task well, where is the opportunity to learn and improve?
Such environments of confusion are one of the hallmarks of abusive workplaces. Your career will not progress and you might even get sick from frustration.
5. The pay isn’t commensurate with the amount of work
You may have worked somewhere before. Or you simply checked Glassdoor for salary comparisons. Either way, you have an idea of what your skills are worth.
When you start negotiating with the interviewer and they seem to want to stick to a low pay, be careful.
The only option you should consider for a low pay is other benefits like work-from-home options and perks. If none of these are satisfactory and the pay is too low for your skills and experience, consider walking away.
Salary negotiations are another area which shows you where the company stands financially. If it’s going down and you’re just getting in, you better be sure of the recovery plan.
If they’re trying to reduce costs by paying people less, then that’s not a good place to work.
You will likely be working long hours as the company probably also employs fewer people to keep costs low.
Working long hours should be under your discretion.
Yes, at times you volunteer or simply accept a request to work over the weekend. But when too much work and little pay is the norm, something is not right.
6. The interview process is disorganized
Your first impression of the company might be at the parking lot.
Maybe the view of the office block or the receptionist’s desk. But apart from all these, the interviewer is the one to paint a more solid picture.
The body language, speech, dressing etc aside, how would you rate your interviewer’s overall preparedness for the interview?
If it’s below 7 out of 10, make a mental note of it. You will combine this with other insights gained through the process so as to make a decision on the company.
If your interviewer is disorganized, is it a big deal?
Well, are you disorganized? If no, and you prepared well for the interview, don’t you think she should have done the same?
If the interviewer is constantly searching for something and isn’t focused on the interview, be careful.
Maybe it’s just a part of the workplace culture.
If being disorganized is the kind of thing which renders you unproductive, then keep away from the job. Your productivity will be affected and with that, promotions and pay rises are likely to remain a dream.
7. The company/department has no employee turnover
It’s funny how lies can be spread and designed to cover an ugly truth.
And it doesn’t have to be political propaganda. As long as something is being hidden, there is a lurking danger.
You probably know that high employee turnover is a sign of danger.
But what about when there is absolutely no or very low turnover?
It can be tempting to think everything is fine but deep inside, it could be a big mess.
Consider these two possible scenarios behind no or very low turnover claims by a company.
- There is no upward growth – if a company is experiencing growth, its employees should also be growing. When employees are growing, there are promotions and their initial positions become vacant.
In other cases, those employees could be growing and deciding to venture into business or get employed by a bigger company. This brings about vacancies and indicate growth opportunities.
But if people are not growing or for other reasons aren’t leaving, question it.
Since everyone is stuck in their positions, how will you go up?
- The management is afraid of firing employees – this is a big problem as it indicates that the leadership of the company is incompetent. Being afraid of firing employees who need to be fired may arise from different issues.
Maybe the manager is just ceremonial and doesn’t have the powers to do so. Maybe he is working with staff who have close connections with the business owner. Maybe he doesn’t have the confidence to do so etc.
Whichever the case, that company most likely has unresolved issues.
The issues may be ignored but certainly won’t go away.
If you join such a company, you’ll be in constant conflict with other team members.
This is especially if you are performance-oriented love bringing positive change.
Your efforts will be thwarted and frustrations will be high.
8. The company/department has high employee turnover
The opposite of this situation is just as bad, if not worse. When a company has high employee turnover, that is also a red flag.
One of the reasons could be that employees are mistreated and thus often leave. It could also be an issue with low pay, being overworked, negative workplace culture etc.
Such workplaces have employees who are full of fear that they won’t talk about anything wrong. They will embrace the wrong and maybe even approve of it.
This is what happens in abusive workplaces. The boss can be so tough that no-one dares ask any question.
Such an environment is not a healthy one and you should reconsider wanting to join.
9. Interviewer badmouths the former office bearer
You’re familiar with and even expect the question about leaving your last job. You know well enough not to speak negatively about your former or current boss.
And the same way you should be positive, so should the interviewer. If she speaks negatively about the person who previously occupied the position you’re interviewing for, take note.
You may not know her opinion on the former employee but you can ask. For many candidates, when given the opportunity to ask questions, they focus on pay and working hours.
But for you, since you’re also seeking to know about the company, ask your questions wisely. Find out why the former employee left, what the day-to-day job is like, what is expected of you if you get hired and similar questions.
It is only when you get your interviewer talking that you can get to know some of the hidden stuff. If there is some amount of bad mouthing in the answers, just know that the same could happen when you leave.
The answer you receive could also tell you whether the workplace culture is full of gossip and rumors. These are never good for a healthy work environment.
10. You’re promised a pay which isn’t put in writing
Here is another big one which you should pay attention to.
When you get to discuss the pay, take care to get it all in writing. If you have a long list of benefits which you fear you may forget, write them down for reference.
If you come to an agreement, all these, together with the terms of promotion and raises, they should be on the offer letter. If anything you decided is not there, raise the matter immediately.
Do not accept the offer unless all is clearly on record.
This is to protect you from being sidelined for promotions or being treated to different terms from those agreed upon.
Anytime there are inconsistencies between the agreement you had and what is in the offer, be suspicious of possible insincerity.
If you work with an insincere boss, you’ll get shortchanged.
This can happen either many times or always but not never. It will affect your motivation and overall productivity and later get cited as the reason you’re not promoted.
Avoid insincere bosses at all costs.
11. Interviewer isn’t enthusiastic about their job
Another question you must ask the interviewer is what she enjoys about working in the company. If she doesn’t seem happy at the thought of reflecting on her employment, something is wrong.
As much as employers want employees who are self-motivated, the work environment has an impact on people. If the environment is not reflective of the attitude expected of the new hire, it won’t work.
Negative atmospheres are very strong. And in many cases, that which is bad can more easily affect the good than the other way round. So, consider choosing not to be negatively influenced.
If the one already working in the company struggles to show how the company is fun, don’t think you won’t struggle too.
It could be that employees at the company are not treated well, are not fairly compensated or are overworked.
Whatever the issue is, once the insider shows that the place may not be what you think it is, beware.
12. Your gut feeling says “No”
There is something in you, often referred to as your gut feeling, which knows many things even before your mind knows them. As such, your gut feeling can lead you in the right direction.
The challenge is usually in following the advice of your gut feeling.
Being a visual and logical being, your mind will look for evidence so as to do something. Your gut feeling on the other hand, will know something even before there is physical evidence of it and advice you accordingly.
But when your mind can’t substantiate the claims or warnings from your gut feeling, you tend to ignore them.
Then later, depending on the severity of the outcome, you might live with guilt for some time and regret at not heeding the advice.
When that voice from within tells you to stop, just follow it. A whisper of the word “No” means that whether physically you can see it or not, there is a real danger lurking.
Just follow your instincts and stay safe.
In your search for a job, do not get desperate to the point of taking a bad job. Even if you are describing yourself perfectly in the job interview.
A bad job could be one in which you’re overworked, mistreated, disrespected, abused or just paid way below what you should.
These are serious dangers which could also impact your own health.
Always be on the look out for warning signs and steer clear of bad working environments.
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