Going through a job interview is stressful. The interviewer is there to grill you and make darn sure that you are the right candidate for the job. The interview process can be time taking and costly for the employer, and the last thing they want to do is regret hiring you.
But this is a two-way street, and you need to walk away from any interview with an idea if you even want to work there. If any of these red flags pop up during your interview process, you should really consider moving along in your job search before you get waste deep into a job that makes you miserable.
Red Flag #1: The Hiring Process is Unorganized and Chaotic
- You’re asked for the same information twelve times by eight different people before even talking to the hiring manager.
- You’re emailed an interview request twenty minutes before the interview is supposed to happen.
- You’re told it’s a video interview but were never sent an invitation link.
- The hiring manager is 29 minutes late to the half-hour interview.
- You’re asked questions that show the interviewer didn’t even read your resume.
- The company takes forever to get back to you on the next steps of the interview process.
The hiring process is never as simple as we think it should be, but if they have an entire HR team incapable of scheduling an interview, and have you jumping through hoops just to not even read your resume, you have to wonder if this cluster of a hiring process is just the tip of the iceberg. Why would working there be any more organized?
I’m willing to cut people some slack. Meetings go over and miscommunication happens. When these one-off issues are the norm though, it’s a sign that it wouldn’t be any different as things progress. I remember working on a project that was run horribly, and all I kept hearing is “this isn’t the normal process”, but when you hear that over and over for months on end, you start to get the feeling that this is indeed the norm. Don’t waste your time hoping things get better.
Red Flag #2: You Can’t Figure Out What You’ll Actually Be Doing
It’s one thing when the job description is vague. Often times these job descriptions are a wish list or a generalist description of the position. Usually, the HR department Is the one in charge of creating these job listings, and sometimes they just don’t have the information to provide a detailed description of the tasks required for the job. I’m willing to overlook this ignorance on the part of the recruiter, but that makes it even more imperative to investigate this job with a bit more scrutiny throughout the interview process, especially when talking to the hiring manager.
When talking to the hiring manager, it is vital that you ask what your responsibilities would be and what your daily tasks would consist of. When you ask about your day-to-day, you should be able to walk away with a general understanding of what you’ll be doing, even if you don’t fully know the details. If they use lots of meaningless buzzwords to describe your job, but never really tell you what you’re doing, that’s when you should consider being extra cautious.
Does the interviewer say that this is an extremely “fast-paced work environment”? They’re probably understaffed and you’ll likely have to take on several things that aren’t on-the-job responsibilities. Do they emphasize that you need to be a “self-starter”? Ask specifically about training, because this is generally a sign that you’ll be tossed into the deep end to figure things out on your own. You’ve undoubtedly heard these phrases before, and they should draw extra scrutiny throughout the interview process. If you leave your interview unsure as to what you’d actually be doing or what would actually be expected of you, consider going for a different position.
Red Flag #3: You Get The Job… Too Easily
Had a 15-minute screener call and they want to hire you?! They must have caught on to how incredible you are quickly! Without even talking to you! Honestly, that just shows how good they are at spotting talent.
Sound too good to be true? Most of the time it is. When they don’t vet your skills or personality, that means something else is going on that should set off your spidey senses. We would all love interviews to be that easy, but, if they’re willing to hire you without seeing if you’re good for the position, who else have they hired that is unqualified to be there? In reality, there are really two reasons why you might get the job and feel like it was too easy.
The first reason is that no skills are particularly needed for the job. Anybody can do it. They just need a person there and they don’t much care who that is. That could be what you’re looking for if this is explicitly an entry-level job. Even in those cases, however, consider asking about training, mentoring, and advancement opportunities throughout the interview. There’s a huge difference between an entry-level “busy work” job, and the beginning of a new career.
I went through an interview process once and each round of interviews ended with the interviewer saying “we’ll get back to you in a few days after we get through all of the other candidates”. The interviewer then got back to me later that day saying I’d made it to the next round of the interview process. This happened three times in three days. This was one of those jobs that I was extremely suspicious of, but I was desperate for a job at the time. Long story short, it was pyramid-scheme-lite and I quit within a few weeks. If I had listened to that voice in my head saying “this is too easy”, I could have saved myself weeks of time and energy that I could have spent finding an actual job that fit my skills and aspirations. Sure this is an anecdotal story, but I find most people I’ve coached have had similar experiences; sometimes they listen to that voice, and sometimes they take the job and regret it soon after.
Another common reason for things being too easy is that they are the desperate ones. Sure, you need 10 years of experience to be able to effectively do this job, but for some reason, the last person who had this job left suddenly, leading to your good fortune. Again, ask yourself “if they’re willing to hire me when I’m likely underqualified, how many other underqualified people work at this company?” This leads straight to the next red flag that you should be looking out for…
Red Flag #4: High Company Turnover
- Have ten different people had the job you’re going for in the last year?
- Does Glassdoor have a negative 3-star review on this company?
If you see current employees bolting for the exits, that’s a clear and obvious sign that there’s something wrong with that company. It could be an awful boss or an insidious company culture. Either way, when you hear that nobody can keep this job, that’s a clear indicator that there’s something wrong with the job, not the employees. You might not always be able to tell just from the interview if there’s high company turnover. A good way to gauge this is to ask the manager if there are some team members who you could talk to about their views on working at the company. If just the thought of you hearing real feedback from current employees concerns the hiring manager, it should concern you too. And that brings us to our final major red flag that you should never ignore…
Red Flag #5: The Hiring Manager Badmouths Other Employees During the Interview
A big piece of what you’re usually trying to do in an interview is to figure out the job your applying to. What are the job duties, what would your day-to-day look like, and how well would you fit in with the team? But another important thing to be aware of is how the interviewer acts. You’re almost always going to be interviewing with who would be your direct manager, and if that person goes out of their way to criticize, demean, or badmouth other individuals in the organization, that is a huge sign that they’re not a good manager.
It’s not only unprofessional, but it’s also childish. If a manager is willing to badmouth a coworker to a potential new hire, you can bet they won’t have a problem throwing you under the bus the second it benefits them. It’s that kind of petty high school drama that makes for an awful work environment.
You need to know your manager’s got your back, and if they’re selling out coworkers in an interview, why would they be any better to work for every day? I’m not saying your boss needs to be your best friend, but there’s a minimum level of professionalism and decency that you should expect if you’re hoping to have a job that won’t make you miserable day in and day out.
Besides answering interview questions and convincing the interviewer that you’re the candidate they want to hire, you’ll want to spend time throughout the interview process getting to know the company and the hiring manager, and figuring out if this is a good job for you. With this in mind, there are several things to watch out for throughout that interview process:
- Red Flag #1: The Hiring Process is Unorganized and Chaotic
- Red Flag #2: You Can’t Figure Out What You’ll Actually Be Doing
- Red Flag #3: You Get The Job… Too Easily
- Red Flag #4: High Company Turnover
- Red Flag #5: The Hiring Manager Badmouths Other Employees During the Interview
If you run into one or more of these red flags while going through the interview process, take some time to consider how much you really know about this job. It’s almost always worth it to hold off on taking a sketchy job offer. Take the time you would have wasted in a toxic job to find a job that’s a good fit for you, not just one that you could probably do if you had to.