Despite the fact that some companies might ask silly questions during the interview process, that’s not always a red flag that they’re going to be awful. That being said, there are some sure-fire red flags to keep an eye out for. If you spot one or more of the following issues or scenarios, question whether this company is really a great fit for you, or if there might be something else worth waiting for out there.
Your direct manager is the person that you will be working with the most, ostensibly. So, during the interview process, it’s important that you get a feel for what you would be doing. A big part of that is working with your manager. So, if you don’t get a chance to talk with the person that you are going to be being managed by, how could you ever know how your interactions with them once you are hired will go? If a company won’t give you an opportunity to talk or interview with your future manager, the fact that you might not get along with them is a huge red flag. If you can, ask for an interview with the manager and see what they say — they should also be willing for you to talk to them.
Have you ever interviewed for a position and had to wait several days, if not weeks before hearing back from the recruiter or interviewer? If not: lucky you! If so, that’s a red flag! When a company doesn’t respond back to you in a timely fashion, it usually means that they have a disorganized hiring process, or that they don’t necessarily value the time of their candidates. It’s important to work for a company that values the time of their people — you want to be valued, after all — so pay attention to how they treat you, how long it takes for them to respond, and if they apologize if it does take a long time. Your time is important too, and you want to work for a company that understands that.
Do people seem disengaged in their conversations with you? Does it seem like they don’t have time or energy to actually pay attention to what you are saying, or ask any clarifying questions? The people that you are talking to should be invested in wanting to know more about the people that they are hiring. If they aren’t, it may signify that they are not invested in the success of the company or that they haven’t been prepared for the interview process by the recruiter or manager. Either way: you want your potential future teammates to be excited about the prospect of getting a new team member, whether they be directly working with you or someone tangential to your role. If no one is interested in digging in and asking for more information about your experience, the company as a whole likely isn’t fostering enthusiasm in everyone about growing the company, which may signify a rough, dying, or underdeveloped culture.
When you read the description for a job, is the main focus of the job description you, or the company? For example, does the job description say:
“ At Joja Cola, we thrive on the energy of new wins. We love having puppies in the office every day, and we all are excellent at jumping rope. All members of the Joja Cola team are excellent baristas with at least 5 years experience in horseback riding each. We don’t want to work to play, we want to play to
Or does it say:
“ At Joja Cola, we’re looking for people who thrive on the energy of new wins. If you love having puppies in the office every day and are excellent at jumping rope, this might be an excellent fit for you. Are you an amazing barista with at least five years of experience in horseback riding? Awesome! We want you to come join us as we play to work, rather than work to
Do you see the difference between the two? The top job description is written entirely from the perspective of the company, whereas the second focuses on the reader/applicant and what they want. As an applicant, you should always look for job descriptions like the latter. It signifies that a company is employee-focused, rather than focused on the self, and will likely have better benefits, work-life balance, and better focus on the things that are valuable and important to you.
In that job description above, it’s not super clear what the role is that you’d be doing, right? While that one is mainly just an exercise in ridiculousness, there are actually job descriptions out there that look like that! Beware of the listing that doesn’t give any specifics about the responsibilities of the role, or for interviewers that, when asked, answer with vague responses or imply that the role may change. Hopping into an undefined role can be difficult and you’ll need extra support, so if you still want to go for the job despite it not being clear in regards to role responsibility, make sure that there is at least a good manager or mentor there to support you.
When you go into the office for the interview, or when you hop on a video call with the employees reaching out, do you get the sense that they are excited to work for the company? Does the office seem dreary and the interviewers unenthused (like we talked about above)? If so, you’ll probably get there too. Ask the people that you see or that you are talking to how long they have been there. If they’ve been there a short amount of time, that’s an even bigger red flag: they might be extremely burned out, especially if still so fresh into their tenure with the company. Move on to greener pastures with this one — you don’t want to start somewhere just to have yourself wind up miserable within the first few weeks.