A common job-hunting aphorism observes, “a job interview is as much about interviewing the company you’re applying to as it is about the hiring managers interviewing you.” But, we all know that’s not exactly how it goes. Mostly, we’re too obsessed with looking and acting the part to reflect upon whether we actually want a certain job.
Yet, if you spend all of your time trying to ace the interview process, you might miss some foreboding signs of what’s to come. Allow me to be the harbinger of bad tidings for a moment and tell you that if you ignore inconvenient truths during the interview process, it won’t take long before you’re miserable. In fact, you may be starting the job hunt all over again. The horror!
At your next interview, as much as you want that paycheck, look closely. And if you see any of these major red flags, think long and hard before signing on the dotted line.
1. The Interviewer Says Bad Things About the Company
At an interview, most hiring managers are on good behavior—they dress up a bit, clean the place, and show the best sides of the company. So, if your interviewer uses the opportunity to indulge in a venting session about anything from her role to the company culture, your suspicions should be raised.
Sure, some people are just general downers, but non-stop complaints could also indicate that dissatisfaction is so pervasive that it penetrates every facet of the workplace. Your best bet is to sidestep this sinkhole of negativity.
2. The Interviewer Expresses Disbelief That You Actually Want the Role
I was recommended to a previous job through a friend. In my final interview with the company, the hiring manager asked me, “So you know [Jane] and you still want to work here?” and laughed, incredulously. “Of course I do!” I said, and eagerly brushed the comment aside in an attempt to persuade her just how much I wanted the job.
And I did, at the time. But I don’t work there anymore, and now I understand all too well why she asked that question. It was no secret that most colleagues on my level despised every waking moment of their time at the company and fled as soon as they could.
While my situation may be an extreme one, pay attention to any comments like, “You sure you want this job?” or “You sure you can handle difficult clients?” If your interviewers seem surprised that you actually want the job, it might be signs of things to come.
3. You Question an Interviewer’s Competence
There are lots of people in the world—some smart, and, let’s be honest, some not so smart. Even people in that latter group frequently enter the business world, start professional ventures, and hire new colleagues.
Particularly if your interviewer is the person you’ll be reporting to every day, make sure that he or she is someone you can respect and learn from. If he or she appears flaky, doesn’t know how to answer a lot of your questions, or appears disorganized or unintuitive, don’t brush it aside. You probably don’t want to work with this type of manager on a regular basis.
4. The Interviewer Pressures You To Take The Role Immediately
If an interviewer or hiring manager acts like your position is a ticking time bomb, you should probably run for the hills. There are exceptions, especially in highly sought-after fields like banking or engineering—but as a rule, extreme pressure to take a job generally indicates that the company or hiring team is in some type of crisis management mode.
Take a step back and evaluate why the team is so desperate to hire you and why they’re trying so hard to sell the job to you. We know you’re awesome, but make sure you’re not in a situation where they’re just looking for someone—anyone!—to fill the role.
5. Turnover is Crazy High
I cannot stress this enough: Do everything in your power to investigate the turnover at the company. If people talk frequently about pursuing new opportunities or returning to graduate school, question it. If the hiring manager mentions that this position has been filled by four different employees in the last year, ask why.
For one, high turnover almost always signals a big problem in the management or working environment. But what’s more, at some companies—including my previous role, which, if you can’t already tell, was the worst—insanely high turnover was actually built into the business model. Every couple of years, large groups of analysts would filter out for other professional or educational ventures. The company expected this exodus and set up a “farm team” of sorts, full of interns who would replace groups of departing analysts at entry-level salaries.
I didn’t recognize this until it was too late, but it was a valuable lesson: If you want to grow with a company, make sure that it’s even a possibility, and that it doesn’t operate on a “burn and churn” model.
Even if you’re unhappy with your current position, don’t jump at a new opportunity if it’s not a great one. By taking the extra time and care to uncover red flags during the interview process, you can make sure your next job is the right move for the long haul.