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In a world filled with toxic environments, abusive bosses, and rude coworkers, it is essential for you to be able to identify red flags in job interviews. Have you ever been to an interview where you just felt like something was off? Did your gut scream “this doesn’t feel right?” Did you leave feeling like you couldn’t quite put your finger on what the problem was?
If you have ever felt like that, you’re not alone. I’ve met hundreds of professionals with interview horror stories and ones who saw red flags, accepted the role, and regretted it later. Also, let me let you in on a secret, I’ve experienced red flags with employers myself, during interviews.
My goal is to help you avoid landing in a toxic work environment or a job you don’t like, by sharing the Top 5 Red Flags in job interviews with you.
Red flags in job interviews with employers can help you predict and prevent a potentially traumatic workplace experience. From entering a toxic work environment, dealing with an abusive boss, to doing work that is just plain boring, paying attention during an interview helps you avoid actively looking for a new job while you’re working a new job.
These red flags are only a handful of common ones that I’ve experienced and hear about time and time again. Your experience may be different and just because you experience a red flag that is not on this list doesn’t make it any less valid. Remember to pay attention to your gut and trust yourself during the hiring process.
It’s time to dive in!
Have you ever been in an interview or hiring process where you felt like everything was kicked into high gear? Like everything was happening too fast? It usually starts in the beginning of the hiring process when they request the first interview. The conversation usually goes something like…
Interviewer: “Hi Mr./Ms. ________, we received your application last night and we are so excited to interview you. Can you come in later today?”
Candidate: “Um, today doesn’t work, I’m at work right now.”
Interviewer: “Oh that’s ok, how about tomorrow? We really need to fill this role.”
Talk about a fast turnaround, but it gets better!
After you go to the interview, they call you the very next day (sometimes even the say day) and say, “Congrats! You got the job, how soon can you start?” They typically follow up by asking if you can start within the next few days or even prior to giving a two-week notice.
This is a huge red flag and often a sign that there is some type of crisis going on within the organization.
Let me quickly share a personal story with you. This exact scenario happened to me. I received a call from a company, and I attended an interview the next morning out of pressure. They hired me that same week and I accepted. Once I joined the company, I quickly discovered why the last person left. Everything was unorganized, their turnover rate was through the roof, the environment was toxic, and there was no direction given to me when it came to my job. I found out that they needed to hire for my role before the quarter came to a close. Needless to say, it did not end well.
If they are rushing you, pay attention, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to say NO!
I highly recommend preparing a list of unique questions to ask during your job interview. As you begin to ask these questions, pay attention to the hiring panel’s verbal and non-verbal answers.
From experience, I’ve noticed that questions specifically related to company culture, management style, levels of happiness, and satisfaction can cause feelings of angst and can really draw out signs of a potentially toxic work environment. If you start to notice the following after asking a question, make a mental note of it.
Remember, any employee (if they are happy and in a great environment) should easily and happily answer any question that you ask them. If this isn’t the case, this red flag in a job interview tells you everything you need to know about the work environment and culture. Remember, if they can’t answer questions for you now… imagine how it will be once you get hired.
Always pay attention to the atmosphere of the company that you walk into when you’re going into the interview, especially in-person. I understand that when working remotely, it can be harder to gauge the overall atmosphere.
If given a choice when called, I always recommend visiting the office in-person. While you are there, ask yourself the following.
This isn’t a time to make excuses for others behavior. Take what you see at face value and believe that this is who they are. No matter how high the salary is or how great the benefits are, this atmosphere is what you could potentially be dealing with every day. Believe me when I say, they will treat you the same once you get there.
If an in-person interview is not an option, that’s ok! There are ways to identify interview red flags through video interviews as well. Pay attention to how your interviewers treat each other, and how they transition to different questions. Also, keep a close eye on how they talk to each other. Do they talk over each other? Are they preoccupied during the interview? Do you notice that they put themselves on mute to make fun of each other (yes, this has happened to me and people I know!).
If you notice any hint of tension between your interviewers, that’s not good sign. Your goal is to get into a work environment that is filled with respect, collaboration, and kindness both virtually and in-person. Remember, if you’re not seeing that when you’re there during the interview, trust me, you will not see it once you’re hired.
Have you ever left an interview feeling deflated, defeated, or confused? Have any of the following thoughts crossed your mind?
“I feel like I was bullied”
“They were being mean to me.”
“The panel seemed pretty condescending.”
Yes, that happens. It’s a potential red flag in the job interview that you need to look out for. Sometimes some hiring managers are extremely condescending, rude, and flat out disrespectful. They may challenge you on every question that you answer and try to make you feel inadequate.
If this is how they treat you during the interview, this behavior will not change once you’re on the team. If you fail to put a boundary up and choose to show that you will tolerate it (by accepting the role), this will confirm that you are ok with this type of behavior. (No, it’s not really ok, but that’s how they will see it).
This is why knowing when to walk away is key. If at any point in the interview, you feel disrespected, it is okay to walk away. It is also okay to cut an interview short.
Here’s another real-life story for you. I once attended an interview where the interviewers looked at me and said, “I don’t believe you. Why do you believe you can do that?” That was only one instance that was inappropriate during the interview (yes, there were others!)
The rest of the interview was extremely off-putting, rude, and disrespectful, but you know what? I wanted that title, so I took the job. And I’m here to tell you, it did not turn out well. That interviewers were the exact same way as they were in the interview. And I felt attacked regularly. Toxic environments are not good and can cause a lot of emotional damage so it’s important to identify red flags beforehand. If you want to learn more about toxic environments, check out my recent article, Is my workplace toxic?
Take it from me, trust your gut and look out for such types of red flag interview questions, and behavior.
Have you ever gotten an offer that felt a little “pushy”? Here’s an example of how this conversation might go.
Hiring Manager: “We’re excited to offer you a position, are you ready to accept it?”
You: “Oh great, can I have a day to think about it?”
Hiring Manager: “We really can’t wait that long for you to think about it, we need an answer right now.”
Or they turn around and say that they will give you 24 hours to come up with an answer.
After years of coaching and attending nightmarish interviews, I have to admit, this is one of the worst red flags in interviews.
The majority of companies will at least give you 3-5 days to decide because accepting a job is a big deal. It’s not something to be taken lightly. You want to make sure that you’re at the right company and the right position that’s going to allow you to thrive and be happy.
If someone is rushing you into a decision, that is a huge red flag in the hiring process. It usually means that everything that you do in that organization will be rushed. You’ll never have an opportunity to think and make a solid decision that you are comfortable with. I’m not saying that I expect them to give you two weeks to come to a decision, but they need to be patient. And if they’re not willing to do that, you need to be comfortable with moving in a different direction.
I want you to get very comfortable with trusting yourself. Trust your gut, your intuition, your heart, your vibes, everything. If something feels off during the interview process, it’s because it probably is.
If you find yourself making excuses and talking yourself into seeing things a different way or taking the role with hopes that you were wrong… DON’T DO IT.
Trust yourself. You have a gut, intuition, eyes, ears, and thoughts for a reason. If it doesn’t feel right, that’s because it’s not right. So don’t try to make it right. Be comfortable with yourself and you’ll be able to recognize red flags in job interviews.
I want you to leave this article knowing this, YOU are the prize, and you do not have to settle. Other opportunities will come along.
If you run into an interviewer, or a job that displays some of these red flags in interviews, don’t get down about it. Your other opportunity is right around the corner. You deserve to be happy. You deserve the best when it comes to your career.
So go out and get it. I would love to hear about some of your experiences, and the red flags in job interviews that you’ve noticed.
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Cheers to your success!