The interview process is one of the most stressful experiences in life. It’s right up there with purchasing your first home and getting married. You confront a tidal wave of emotions, ranging from exhilaration to fear. In between, there will be periods of euphoria when you think you nailed the interview—and most certainly will get an offer—to the depths of depression when you realize it’s not going your way.
It becomes extremely difficult to think clearly with all of these feelings hitting you at once. Since you’re not thinking objectively, it is easy to miss certain cues and telltale signs that indicate there is a problem with the job. Just as you overlook flaws in the potential home you have your heart set on and dismiss friends’ advice about your choice for a partner, you can fall in love with the idea of a job and lose touch with reality.
It’s my job to help keep you grounded and focused, even if you don’t want to hear it. To make your life easier, here is a briefing on warning signs to look for—from the beginning to the end of the job search. Some of these red flags should send you running for the hills, while others suggest that you should give considerable thought before you proceed further or accept the job offer.
Here are some warning signs to watch out for when interviewing:
- The résumé submission process is not easy. The corporate career page requires you to complete a lengthy and involved application, reveal personal data, share your GPA from 20 years ago and list every job you’ve ever held. The online application is ridden with glitches and crashes in the midst of filling it out. After all your time and hard work, you don’t even receive the acknowledgement or courtesy of a canned email. This demonstrates that the company views you as a cog in the machine. There is no personal touch or evidence that they care about you as a human being. It is an omen of how you’ll be treated if you join the company.
- After several months, you’ve forgotten about the job. Now, out of the blue, you’re contacted by someone at the company. They’re unapologetic about the delay and immediately start interrogating you about your background. Caught by surprise, you ask to reschedule the call for a better time. which is met with a hard “no.” It becomes instantly clear that the human resources person doesn’t understand the job and its requirements. You go along to be polite, but it gets increasingly frustrating as he won’t—or can’t—answer your completely reasonable questions.
- Interview times are scheduled without consulting you beforehand. When you mention that you have prior engagements, the employer doesn’t care. You’re left feeling that if you don’t acquiesce to their scheduling demands, you’ll be withdrawn from consideration.
- The day before the interview, the meeting is canceled with a vague reason, such as the hiring manager got sick. An interviewer may show up late, not apologize and read your résumé for the first time in front of you. He distractedly rushes through the conversation. Even though you want the job, you’re a little taken aback by the manner in which he subtly casts aspersions on the person who held the role and is leaving. When it’s your turn to ask questions, his answers are curt and a little dismissive. It is noticeable that he avoids answering your question, “If I perform well and exceed expectations, what is the growth track that I can expect?”
- The manager glances at his emails while you’re answering a question. He then takes a phone call and makes a hand signal that it’ll just be a moment. The interviewer also allows someone to pop into into his office for a quick question (that turns into a 15-minute conversation about a private matter). You awkwardly and uncomfortably sit there.
- After the first interview, there is little-to- no communication, follow-up or feedback from the company. There are large gaps of time lapses between interviews. During this time, you receive calls from recruiters for the same job and also see it posted all over the job boards.
- Based upon your homework, you find out that there has been a significant amount of turnover in the department, prior layoffs or talks of relocating jobs to other cities.
- An offer is made that is much lower than your industry’s standard and less than what you asked for. The company is resolute, claiming that they believe it is the best offer. They have no interest in negotiations. It’s like pulling teeth to get information addressing your questions and concerns, including potential employee benefits. The manager, corporate recruiter, human resources and other employees involved with the process seem disinterested if you accept the offer or not.
- Several weeks elapse, due to internal haggling and in-fighting to obtain the required executive sign-offs on the offer letter, leading you to believe that management is not fully behind this position. The offer letter, when it finally arrives, contains a lower title, salary and bonus than what was initially verbally communicated to you. The background check gets bogged down for weeks with constant demands for further documentation and information that you have previously provided.
All of these red flags share a certain commonality: the company doesn’t value you, your time and what you bring to the table. To them, you are a commodity—a body to sit in a seat. It could be you or anyone else to them. There is no evidence of a sincere desire to have you join the company. Even if the job is great and the money is fantastic, be forewarned. These other signals are a warning sign of what to expect. Interviewing is like dating; you’re on your best behavior and show only your good side. If this is their good side, then be afraid of what they are really like—once you’re in a relationship with the company.