Job interviews can be as nerve-wracking as they are exciting. In best case scenarios, you may just bond with your interviewer off the bat, paving the way for smooth-sailing, positive discussion. Other times may not be as lucky: you may find yourself late, unprepared, even underqualified – or discover problems within the company altogether.
Sadly, some companies just aren’t as they seem on paper. You may have been drawn to an exceptionally attractive job ad – only to find that the actual workplace just isn’t up to snuff.
Whether it’s disrespectful employers, an underwhelming work environment, or ambiguous company image, we break down the four red flags to watch for in any job interview.
4 red flags to look out for in a job interview
- Poor interview etiquette.
- Vague or unsure answers.
- The interviewer provides or asks about inappropriate information.
- The work environment doesn't appeal to you.
1. Poor interview etiquette.
Just as you are expected to act professionally during your interview, so should your prospective manager.
Signs of disinterest, such as repeatedly checking their phone, repeating questions you’ve already answered, and a wandering attention span could mean one of two things: the interviewer has (somehow) already decided you’re not fit for the job, or are simply there to get the “gist” of what you can offer, and don’t feel the need to be fully present.
Either is a sign of unprofessionalism, and paints a poor picture of them as your potential employer. If they can’t afford you the proper time and attention during the interview process – how would they offer you the dedicated time and guidance you need as an employee?
Hiring can be an expensive process, and requires proper care and investment from potential employers. Those who carelessly brush off their time with hiring candidates are more likely to make mistakes, which (as The Muse points out), may point to a potentially inconsistent company culture and high turnover rate.
Additionally, watch out for unprepared interviewers who haven’t taken the time to read your resume. A quality, professional interview will have questions tailored to your work history, skills, and achievements, ensuring you’re an ideal fit for the team. Failing to screen your application is a sign of negligence, and shows the company isn’t taking you as seriously as they should.
2. Vague or unsure answers.
If your interviewer is unable to offer concrete answers to basic questions, it’s often a sign to tread cautiously. Keeping information purposefully vague typically shows they have something to hide; this goes for both the interview process and the content of their hiring ad (if applicable). An inability to offer a clear picture of your role could also – once again – be a sign of unpreparedness or general unprofessionalism.
Experts recommend “testing” how open your interviewer is about the company, inquiring on both the positive and frustrating elements of the job. Hesitance in answering any reasonable questions should be a red flag. At the very least, try and ask them about the “best” parts of working for the business, and if they struggle to give an answer – this may just point to an unsatisfying company culture.
You could also go the extra mile of asking current or former employees on their experience working for the company. Those unsure or doubtful in their response (particularly towards simple questions) are likely trying to dodge some unpleasant truths. Similarly, a little background check on their Glassdoor reviews, past press releases, and related news stories can offer you insight on their industry reputation and the satisfaction of previous employees.
3. The interviewer provides or asks about inappropriate information.
Interviews involving strangely personal or intrusive questions should raise alarm bells. Under Australia’s equal opportunity laws, employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers on the basis of race, gender, age, marital status, and religion, among other traits. Interviewees have every right to refuse broaching such topics and should steer clear of organisations adamant on doing so.
According to TopResume, inappropriate or illegal questions can occasionally be used as an “intimidation tool” among employers; often slipped in during more relaxed, informal interviews such as a lunch with your prospective team. In these (more casual) cases, it’s common for interviewers to be unaware of their behaviour; so knowing your rights, taking charge of the conversation, and staying firm in your personal boundaries are typically best in diffusing the situation – as well as provide you the opportunity of demonstrating your interpersonal skills.
Additionally, be wary of interviewers who voluntarily offer inappropriate information. This includes badmouthing an employee you may be replacing. Not only is this a major sign of unprofessionalism, it also points to a potentially toxic work environment, or at the very least, a toxic manager.
4. The work environment doesn’t appeal to you.
Sometimes it’s best to trust your gut, and the first impressions a workplace gives you.
When entering the company office, stay observant of the environment and interactions between employees. What does their dress code look like? Workers dressed in formal suit-and-ties versus a workplace of casual wear can imply vastly different company cultures. Do employees look engaged in their work, or bored and fidgeting at their desks? Is the space an open-office layout, or one segmented into private cubicles?
Examining your surroundings can offer a glimpse into what’s like to work for the company – and whether you see a future in it. Be sure to also take note of your interviewer’s interactions with others; if this is your prospective employer, keep wary of how they treat their peers and subordinates, as there’s a high chance they’ll treat you in the exact same manner.
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