We’ve all been on interviews that don’t feel right. Maybe we can’t quite put our finger on it. Maybe the hiring manager had glowing red eyes, but your rent is overdue and you stuck it out. No job is perfect. So, how do you know if you should proceed with caution or run away screaming?
Well, only you can decide what you’re willing to put up with—we all have different boundaries. But there are signs that should make you think long and hard before taking that job. In fact, you may be better off having the manager with the glowing red eyes.
1. They only give you one day and time to interview. If you can’t make it, too bad.
I’ve had employers call and invite me for an interview that day. Well, “invite” is too polite of a word. It was more like—here’s when we can meet with you. Take it or leave it. If an employer refuses to work with you to find a good interview time, especially if you’re currently employed, that may be the first of many unreasonable demands. Do they want to interview you or are they just going down a list? In my experience, employers who were truly excited about talking to me asked when I was available and did their best to find a time that worked for both of us.
2. Your potential hiring manager and/or coworkers are rude or seem indifferent to you.
I once had an “interview” where the hiring manager looked me up and down (from head to toe), gave me a terse greeting, and then sat me in front of a computer and told me to take a test. Only the directions were contradictory and confusing. When I asked for clarification, the hiring manager snapped at me. I walked out and didn’t look back.
If they’re looking at their phone while you’re talking, being demeaning, asking inappropriate personal questions, or making you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to say—see ya! As candidates, we’re expected to bring our A-game to every interview. Why should it be any different for an employer wanting to attract the best candidates?
3. They keep mentioning how many other candidates they have over and over…
We get it. A gazillion other people applied for this job, and you have your pick. Yay you! If a hiring manager sifts through a stack of resumes in front of you, mentions how many interviews they have today, tomorrow, and next week, and generally can’t stop talking about how many GRRREAT candidates they have, you have to question the motivation behind it. It’s not like we don’t know we are competing against other candidates. I don’t know anyone who has gone into an interview thinking—I must be the only one they’re talking to. I’m just THAT fabulous.
So, why would any good employer need to constantly remind you how many options they have? If they’re a great place to work, it’s generally assumed they get a lot of applicants.
4. They put down other candidates or former employees
I’ve heard it all in interviews. We got 200 applicants, but half their resumes went in the trash. Another candidate did this or said that. One time a hiring manager even said—the person who used to be in this role could be a total b***! But you seem chill.
This is just straight up unprofessional behavior. And you know what they say. If they’re doing it to others….
5. They try to sell you on the benefits of working in a closet…with the copier and 4 other people.
Ah, lack of space in the office. That’s right up there with IT being overwhelmed and really bad coffee. Does playing musical cubicles sound familiar? It’s common to feel the squeeze, especially if you’re working with start-ups or smaller businesses.
But this is also a place where we have to spend 8-10 hours of our day…5 days a week. It matters. We can’t all expect the corner office with an ocean view, but you should have a space that is comfortable, sanitary, and your own. It should be a space you can be productive in, even if it’s not ideal. If they can’t provide you with that, ask if you can work remotely. If they say no, well…how badly do you want the job?
6. Everyone acts like they’re stuck at a timeshare presentation.
An interview is a great time to scope out the culture and environment. You can actually tell a lot about a place in a short amount of time, if you’re paying attention. Are people talking to each other and laughing or are they all at their desks staring at their computers with zombie eyes? Do they look at your hiring manager in fear? Do they smile at you or stare at you with suspicion?
One question I always ask is—what do you love about working here? If they fumble with the answer or the best thing they can come up with is “I like the challenge of getting a lot done with little to no resources”, I know I’m probably looking at a not so great environment. You can tell when people love where they work. Their passion and energy is infectious and obvious.
7. They leave you waiting for fifteen minutes or more, and they don’t apologize.
Shit happens. Sometimes your dog eats your thumb drive, which has the only copy of the presentation you need to give in an hour. Sometimes your client’s website has crashed, and it’s all your fault. You knew you shouldn’t have installed that plugin.
But a candidate’s time is valuable too. We have places to be—like back at our current jobs. If a hiring manager leaves you waiting and doesn’t apologize or acknowledge the wait, don’t ignore that behavior. It might not be deal breaker the first time, but it’s concerning if it happens more than once.
8. They have bad reviews that point out the same issues.
Isn’t it great that employers and toasters have reviews these days? Pay a visit to Glassdoor, Indeed, or other employer review sites before going on your interview. If you see multiple bad reviews that all point out similar or the same issues, take heed and ask questions that hit on some of those issues. For example, if people are complaining about micromanagement, ask the hiring manager what their management style is like or how projects get approved. If you don’t like their answers, that makes your decision pretty easy!
9. This role has been restructured.
I hate it when this happens. You think you’re interviewing for your dream job, and they sheepishly giggle and say – well, the role has shifted. You’ll actually be doing (something not even close to the original job). At best, they didn’t think the role through well enough. At worst, they have no clue who they need or what direction they want to go in next. Either way, they’ve wasted your time and that’s really not cool.
10. They pressure you into accepting the job offer immediately.
If an employer doesn’t want to give you time to think an offer over, which is in their best interest as well, consider that a huge red flag. Asking for a couple days is perfectly reasonable, especially if you have other offers to consider. You have to do what’s best for you, and if an employer doesn’t understand that, is that really someone you want to work for?
Remember: Interviews are a two-way street. They should be selling you on the job and company as much as you’re selling them on your skills. Listen to your gut, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.