Interviewers are prepared to instantly spot strengths and weaknesses in a job candidate. Naturally, they want to find somebody who’s the best fit for the role and weed out job seekers who aren’t up to the challenge. However, don’t forget that the company is interviewing for you, too. It’s up to you to spot the strengths and weaknesses of a company.
To avoid taking a job that’s not right for you, look for these red flags in an interview and learn how to respond to the warning signs.
There are hints of high turnover
Whether it comes up naturally in an interview or if you ask yourself, find out about the history of the job you’re applying for, as well as the employees who formerly held the role. Hopefully, those employees have gone on to better positions or have been promoted within the company. However, Raven Robinson, founder of Veranda Lane Leadership Coaching, says that if the last employee was there for less than six months, or if there have been more than two people in the role in the past two years consider that a potential red flag. If there are signs of high turnover, further investigate the workload and responsibilities. There’s a chance the role is overburdened if employees are getting burned out quickly.
Career paths aren’t a priority
A common interview question is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” After you’ve explained your hopes for your career path, don’t be afraid to turn the question around. Ask about the future of the role and how the company expects the employee to advance. Robinson says it’s a warning sign if “they can’t clearly and eloquently explain the future of the company and where they hope to be in five years — especially if the interviewer would be your direct supervisor. If they don’t know this now, they will probably lead you astray as you work.”
The work environment isn’t professional or positive
You can learn a lot about a business based on what the employees say or how they act around people outside of the company. Robinson says to watch out for “the tone with which they speak of the last employee. It’s possible to get caught up in thinking that the person must not have been great at the job since they are not there anymore. However, if this comes across in the way people speak about them, that shows a low level of professionalism on their part.” Another warning sign: “If the manager can’t explain with enthusiasm why they like working for the company,” Robinson says. If the interviewer isn’t excited about the work environment, why should you be?
The job begins to sound different than the role you applied for
When it comes time for you to ask questions, “Ask what a typical day looks like in that role. If possible, ask the supervisor and an employee who does that job; if their answers are vastly different, that’s a red flag,” Robinson says.
Also find out what their expectations will be for you immediately upon starting the job. Watch out “if they are looking for someone who will ‘hit the ground running,’” Robinson says. “While this isn’t make-or-break, it’s typically the sign of a company with no training process. If you require formal training, manuals and documented procedures, this may not be the company for you. The same stands if you ask what would be your first priority in the first 30 days and they say anything other than ‘Learning.’”
How to respond to red flags
If red flags are popping up in an interview, there are ways to investigate. “If you notice that an interviewer is unprepared to openly answer a valid question, try asking it in different ways or from different angles,” says Lynda Zugec, managing director at The Workforce Consultants. “Inconsistent responses are a red flag that something may be happening behind the scenes. Try to determine if the question is a deal breaker for you or whether someone else in the organization can more fully answer your question.”
If you do see red flags, is the job a lost cause? “Not necessarily, but you absolutely do have to be honest with yourself about the type of work environment you’re getting yourself into,” Robinson says. “The best thing to do in the interview process is to take in information.” Afterwards, you can make your decision if it’s a good match, just as the interviewer would.