The day has come: You’re finally interviewing at your dream company, for your dream job! It’s in the perfect industry and the role is a near perfect match for your skills and background. Plus it’ll keep you on track for your five-year plan. All good, right?
Many times, the external view of a company can be profoundly different from the reality inside. Most people have a tendency to “downplay” or even dismiss red flags when they allow their hearts to get ahead of their brains during the consideration process. But, you should never allow yourself to ignore the signs that are trying so very hard to reveal themselves to you.
What exactly should you keep an eye out for? Any of the following:
1. The Hiring Manager Draws a Blank When Describing the Role
You ask the typical, direct interview question, “What will my day look like as a designer on this team?” and seem to get back a blank stare, or worse, an unfocused rambling of random responsibilities.
This is no good for two reasons. One, coming into an organization without a clear understanding of your duties, roles, responsibilities, and accountability could easily be a disaster starting on day one. What if you don’t like the position as it unfolds? What if it’s not right for your skill set? Two, it’s often a sign that the team isn’t sure what its goals are for the upcoming months. A goal-less team usually leads to unclear instructions, projects that are ditched upon completion, and mixed messages from your boss. Not to mention, it could mean there’s no clear path to a promotion.
If you’re in this situation, you can follow up with a question along the lines of, “What skills does the person in this role need to succeed?” If the person has a quick, immediate answer, then perhaps the hiring manager is leaving the day-to-day look of the job up to the right candidate. (And that’s actually OK!) But if this one gets crickets too, stay away.
2. Your Potential Boss Seems Disorganized and Rude
You arrive on time (or, actually five minutes early) for the interview and wait for over 30 to meet the hiring manager. Once your potential manager finally arrives, it’s clear he hasn’t reviewed your resume and is barely even able to recall your name. He then proceeds to take a call and check his email mid-interview.
Yes, some people have busy days, and some people get thrown into interviews at the last minute. But, if this is going to be your boss, do not take this behavior with a grain of salt. Being disrespectful of your time is likely a harbinger of what’s to come.
To double check on the situation, you can ask the hiring manager a few questions indirectly, such as “How do you assess and check in with the members of your team?” “How do you prefer your employees communicate questions and issues to you?” and “What values do you need to have to succeed on this team and in this company?”
Based on those answers, you’ll want to do a gut check to find out if those answers resonated with you or only make you feel more hesitant. A great working relationship with your supervisor is going to do a great deal in determining your job satisfaction and your rate of success. So, if you’re disrespected from the start, it doesn’t bode well.
3. Your Potential Peers Seem Overworked and Overstressed
As you interview with more people from the team, common statements keep coming up such as “The hours are crazy” and “The job is sometimes unpredictable.” You’re starting to feel like there’s a theme and your future teammates are seriously unhappy.
It’s one thing if one person comes off as stressed when you speak, but if they all do, it’s indicative of a problem in the work environment. If you’re concerned, it’s a good time to probe for more information. Two basic starter questions are: “What’s your favorite part of your job?” and “If you had to describe the culture here in three words, what would they be?”
You’re looking for answers that come back to the work the company does, the projects they’re digging into now, anecdotes about great clients—really anything positive besides perks. Perks such as vacation time, box seats at big games, and free lunch can only take you so far.
4. You Can’t Imagine Getting Along With the Team
The job is perfect, your skills are a perfect match, you know you can nail it, and everyone you’ve spoken with seems to love what they do! There’s just one nagging feeling: You don’t fit in with these people.
Assessing cultural fit is extremely important during the interview process, as 89% of hiring failures are due to being a poor fit. But what the heck does everyone mean when they talk about this? Essentially, it boils down to values. The reason we don’t typically get along with people is because we don’t share the same values.
To assess what a company really cares about, ask your future boss and co-workers “How are people recognized for their work?” “What kind of person is promoted?” and “What type of person would not do well here?”
If you’re not hearing yourself described (your real self, not your ideal self), take note. If you don’t share the company’s core values, you won’t fit in, and you won’t like your job, and you’ll have to start this process all over again.
After an interview, it’s never a bad idea to bounce your thoughts and feelings off of a good friend or a caring mentor. But it’s also smart to be your own best advocate and keep an eye out for red flags. After all, you’re awesome, you’re working hard to find the perfect position, and you deserve to get it.
Photo of red flags courtesy of Shutterstock.
Pat Mastandrea is one of the founding partners of the Cheyenne Group and is the Chief Executive Officer of the company. Prior to starting the firm, Pat ran TMP/Monster Worldwide's Global Media, Entertainment and Information Executive Search Practice. Pat's career spans 20 years in the media, entertainment and information industry including advertising agency, broadcasting, cable, direct broadcast satellite, publishing and new media.More from this Author