4 Red Flags During the Interview Process

Applying for a new job always brings a blend of excitement and anxiety. As a recruiter, I can tell you unfortunately that there can also be red flags during the interview process that indicate the position or the company itself might not be a good fit for you. Here are four to watch out for and the actions you might consider taking:

1. Being treated poorly during the interview process. This comes in a variety of flavors, but respect for your time is the biggest of the red flags here. I recently had a job applicant who sat in the reception area waiting for his interview, and still hadn’t been brought in after an hour. In another situation, I had a job applicant whose hiring manager missed four separate scheduled phone interviews. We all have our personal thresholds of how long to wait, including how long we can be away from other obligations, which is balanced against how much you want the position.

What you can do: For me, if I were sitting in the lobby for 45 minutes or so, I’d let the receptionist know that I had an appointment for a given hour. If I received a reasonable updated time, I’d hang on. Otherwise, I’d excuse myself politely as possible and shoot an email to the hiring manager to reschedule as well as the recruiter to let them know the situation. In some cases, I might be so turned off that I’d back out of consideration.

2. Hearing about high turnover. While it might be tough to fill the job of someone who’s been at a company for a decade, the opposite¬† – a revolving door at a given position is a major warning sign. I remember one of my clients who learned that 15 people had been in the job in the past 5 years!

What you can do: You might get lucky and hear about high turnover through the grapevine, but a little sleuthing can help, too. During the interview, you can (and really should) ask why the position is open and how long the previous person had been there, as well as the person before that. From there, your actions depend on the answer. If the answer gives you pause, do you think you’re spectacular and resilient enough to overcome the apparently overwhelming challenges? (Don’t forget, there may have been some good people who didn’t survive.)

3. You don’t click with the hiring manager. This is easier in person than on the phone, but you can still get a sense of your rapport. While you should pay attention to interactions with any of your potential peers, it’s your boss who will make the difference in your success.

What you can do: This one is really about following your instincts. Is the hiring manager abrupt, rude, distracted, or showing any other negative interpersonal traits? Do you feel uncomfortable in some respect? If so, you might want to pass. Countless studies have shown that people don’t leave their companies, they leave their managers.

4. The company culture isn’t a good fit. These might be policy-based, like no smoking on campus, no visible tattoos, or no flexibility in your schedule. But you also need to look at the overall culture. Maybe it’s a high-tech company with everyone in shorts and t-shirts, and you prefer to dress more formally. As a recruiter, one example I encountered was a company that had a keg of beer in the fridge which might be a fantastic perk for some people, but not for my particular candidate. In particular, privately owned companies may often have quirks due to the owner’s idiosyncrasies, such as being ultra-religious or expecting you to contribute money or time to a social cause that you feel strongly about (either negatively or positively).

What you can do: During the interview process, don’t just listen to what the hiring manager is saying. Watch how other people are dressed and interacting. Is the office vibe quiet, loud, energetic, relaxed? More important, do you get a sense that people enjoy working there or are they just collecting a paycheck?

The bottom line for all of these red flags is that you need to be in observation mode during the interview process and trust your gut. You might be able to put minor irritations or your own personal preferences aside for a time, but an environment that’s not a good fit will wear on you mentally over time. Conversely, a company that’s in full alignment with your personal values could be the beginning of a smart career move.

Please share your red-flag stories in the comments section below!

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