I’m taking off my hiring manager hat for a moment to tell you a little story. It’s probably going to be a long one, but stick with me! I reveal the five red flags to watch for in a job interview – all five of which I’ve fallen victim to myself!
Years ago, I had targeted a company I wanted to work for and had nailed the phone interview with the recruiter. After the phone interview she told me that the next step was more involved. There was script she would be sending me, and I would need to role play with the hiring manager on a phone call. I was assured I didn’t need to memorize the script but was told I definitely needed to practice since she would be listening for my tone and comfort level.
I practiced constantly; I had all four pages nearly memorized when the date of my call rolled around. My appointment time came and my phone didn’t ring. After 10 minutes, I called their office, thinking maybe I was supposed to call them and had misunderstood. “I’m sorry, she isn’t in the office yet today. Would you like her voicemail?”
I left a professional voicemail and hung up completely baffled. I ultimately decided to email the recruiter to tell her the hiring manager hadn’t been available for our call. I was SO BUMMED, you guys. I had spent almost a week practicing and like that, the opportunity was gone. Or so I thought.
About an hour later my cell phone rang, and I answered it (MISTAKE!). The woman on the other end identified herself as the hiring manager and curtly asked if I was ready to do my read through. I said yes (even though my confidence was shaken!) and it went off without a hitch.
At the end of the call, she advised the recruiter would be contacting me regarding the next steps. I immediately shot off an email to the recruiter expressing my gratitude and excitement for the next step.
But there was no response. For over a week.
Then, after I’d given up hope, I got an email asking if I was available the next day for an in-person interview with the COO. She was flying in to Cleveland from the Corporate Office last minute and this would be skipping ahead to the second interview. I agreed, super excited to meet the COO of the company I’d been trying to get into for almost a year.
When I arrived for the interview, I was ushered into the cutest waiting room! I was so excited that the vision I had been holding was turning into a reality! After about 15 minutes, a woman who didn’t identify herself came in and told me she needed the room I was in for a client, and I needed to follow her.
She led me into the bowels of the office, into a room with nothing on the walls and only three mismatched chairs. I was instructed to sit and she would be back in a few minutes. By now we’re almost 20 minutes past my appointment time.
She returned, with another woman in tow, and identified herself as the COO. The other woman identified herself as the senior director in the office. This was going to be a joint interview, I learned. Well, okay then!
With the exception of an interruption while one of the women exited the room to speak with a client, the interview went very well. I was assured the recruiter would be contacting me regarding the next steps. I went home and sent off three separate and personalized thank you emails: to the recruiter for arranging the meeting, to the COO for taking time out of her trip to sit down with me, and to the senior director for her time and consideration.
The senior director responded wishing me luck, but not a word from the other two. For two weeks.
Two weeks after my interview, over a month after my initial phone interview with the recruiter, I received an email from the recruiter asking for a list of references. I sent them over immediately and over the course of the next week, my references confirmed – one-by-one – they had received calls.
After hearing from my fourth reference, I emailed the recruiter asking for a status update. I knew my references had my back (Because why would you provide the name of someone who doesn’t like you? Duh!) so I expected the offer to be incoming. But no response. FOR ANOTHER FIVE DAYS.
One morning, I was at the job I so desperately wanted to leave, when my phone buzzed. The recruiter emailed asking me to write a paragraph on why I felt I was a good fit for the position. And she needed it by that afternoon because they were having a leadership meeting where they would be making the candidate selection.
You guys, I almost threw my phone out of the window. I was so frustrated with the rollercoaster and periods of no response, I almost wrote back, “Are you kidding me?” But I didn’t. I wrote the paragraph and got the job offer the next morning.
The offer was for a lower base (but higher commission) than had been discussed in any of our previous conversations. I’d been talking to them for six weeks and now the salary was different! But I was confident I would rock the position and money would rain down on me, so I accepted.
Then three days later, after I had already given notice to my current employer, they delayed my start date by four days and extended the length of the training at the Corporate Office out of state.
I resigned six months later, making it the shortest position I’ve ever held.
Oh my gosh, Maggie! Why did you tell us that super long story?!
I was so blinded by my vision of the company, I overlooked all the red flags. And it wasn’t like there was a shortage of them! Let’s count them out:
Red Flag 1: Crazy Hiring Process
Employers have the right to vet their potential employees and some hiring processes take a long time. But the weird hiring manager script call I was given and the skipping – no wait! combining! – of the in-person interviews should have been Red Flag #1 for me.
Keep your eyes and ears open during the process. Pay attention to how things are being done. Does it make sense or are there a lot of extra steps involved? The hiring process will give you a good idea of a company’s standard work flow. Is it streamlined or convoluted?
Red Flag 2: The Hiring Manager is Unprepared
Missing an appointment happens – traffic, illness, a figurative fire that needs put out. Things happen and that’s okay. What was not okay was when my hiring manager called an hour later, didn’t give me time to prepare myself, and was extremely curt over the whole thing.
If you feel like the hiring manager is unprepared or rude, dig in a little bit. Ask a couple questions to see if it’s indicative of a bigger problem. “How do you communicate with your team? How do you prefer they communicate with you?” I can’t tell you what the right answer is to those questions, but you’ll know. If the answer makes you feel hesitant at all, run away! This is your potential boss we’re talking about.
Red Flag 3: They Don’t Value Your Time
Can we talk about how many times I let that slide? Every time I turned around, they were disrespecting my time: no response to emails, running late for appointments, and even rescheduling my start date and trip length after I’d already signed the offer and resigned my previous position!
If a potential employer doesn’t value you as a candidate, they won’t value you as an employee. It really is that simple. If there’s a blatant disregard for your time, such as running extremely late or checking their phone while interviewing you, don’t hope it’s a one off. It probably isn’t.
Red Flag 4: Everything is Rushed
In my case, I was being ignored for weeks at a time only to receive an email asking for an immediate response! This could be lumped into Red Flag #3, but this red flag doesn’t always show itself in the same way.
If you’re being pressured to respond immediately to their calls or even an offer, it tells you they’re probably understaffed. They’re more interested in find A person for the job than finding THE RIGHT person for the job. Then you’ll want to ask yourself why they’re so understaffed.
Red Flag 5: Offered Salary Not As Advertised
I was six weeks into the hiring process when I finally got my offer. The base was less but the commission was more. That was sold to me as being “the same in the end.” Now, that wasn’t my first commission job, and I do like a healthy commission structure because you’re rewarded for hard work. BUT! It changed somewhere between the first phone call and the official offer. DANGER! DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! (Do you like my hip and current reference straight out of 1960? I had TBS growing up and watched a lot of syndicated shows.)
This is a bait and switch. It’s dishonest, and there is literally no excuse for it. You don’t want to do business with a company that pulls this nonsense.
“You know, it’s funny; when you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.”
– Wanda the Owl, BoJack Horseman
I made all the above mistakes so you don’t have to. I was so excited to be interviewing with a company I completely missed all of the dozens of red flags.
When you’re interviewing, don’t forget that the process is also about YOU interviewing THE COMPANY. You’re awesome, and you deserve a great job! Try to keep an objective view, but if you’re struggling with that, bounce your thoughts off a coach or mentor.
MAKE ME FEEL BETTER
Tell me about your worst job interview! Or, have you ever completely ignored the signs and made a bad decision? (LIKE ME!) How’d it turn out?