Beware these Interview Red Flags!

June 3, 2024

“Do you have any questions for us?”

You’ll likely be asked at the end of a job interview what questions you have for the hiring manager or search committee.

I encourage my business students and coaching clients to have smart questions prepared, those that reinforce the skills they’d bring to the job while also expressing knowledge of and curiosity about the organization.

If nothing else, here are a few general questions to ask if they haven’t already been covered during the course of the interview:

“What does success look like in this role?”

“What are the priorities for this role for the first 3 / 6 / 12 months?”

“How is feedback given to ensure performance is on track with the goals of the position?”

If your interviewer cannot answer these questions with positivity and specificity – BEWARE!

A former TV colleague on the job hunt recently posed the “success” question to his somewhat terse interviewer. Without hesitation, the interviewer replied: “Your job is to make me happy.”

I’m sorry… what?

🚩 Red flag! 🚩

This interviewer believed a new hire’s role is to make him “happy” without giving any indication of what that means, what it looks like, how to do it, or how it would be measured.

How can you make someone happy without knowing what makes them happy? A stellar job performance isn’t going to help an unhappy person.

It reminded me of the time I was assigned a new role and asked a supervisor the success question. “What does success look like for this project?” I inquired.

His answer… “I’ll know it when I see it.”

No targets, no metrics, no key performance indicators. Just aim at… something…. and see if you hit it. Needless to say, I was not successful in this initiative.

Red flag beware these interview red flags!

Other red flag phrases to be aware of:

🚩 “We’re still figuring out what this role will entail.” Do you want to take on a role when they don’t know what they want or need?

🚩”We’re not big on formalities or company policies.” A lack of formal processes means a lack of objectives and measurements, as well as a lack of recourse if you find yourself in a bad situation.

🚩 You’re overqualified. – Is this truly a skills assessment? Or a judgment of your years of experience or your age? Is this a role where you’ll feel challenged and fulfilled or undervalued and underpaid?

🚩”We’re not sure how you’ll fit in here.” – You probably won’t want to. So don’t try to.

Fit in beware these interview red flags!

Job seekers can also gain clues about company culture in non-verbal ways. Does the interviewer seem rushed, harried, or disinterested? Do they answer vaguely or evade questions entirely? Are they generally rude or unfriendly? Do they badmouth co-workers or other job candidates?

Do they seem genuinely interested in YOU and your response to the “Tell me about yourself” question?

Though the job market is tight and candidates are happy to have any offers at all, heed these caution signs and trust your gut! If it feels off in the interview, it will only be worse when you are an employee. You might be putting yourself in a position with so many red flags that you’ll want to wave a white flag and break up with your job.

Man waving flag beware these interview red flags! When “Mary” had a last-minute family emergency that required her to reschedule a second interview for her “dream job,” her potential boss-to-be outwardly expressed her displeasure. She needed someone on board ASAP, she told Mary with a huge sigh of impatience. They didn’t have time to waste, but fine, if it was absolutely necessary they would reschedule. How soon could Mary get herself there?

Mary spent an hour trying to arrange for family backup so that she could make the interview even though she had the sinking feeling that this “dream job” might be a nightmare. She ultimately pulled her candidacy. If bad behavior is evident at a time when a company should be at its most welcoming, eager to get a candidate on board, what do you suppose it would have been like for Mary once she was fully ensconced in the organization?

Just as a red flag at the beach is a warning signal for swimmers to stay out of the water due to dangerous conditions, the red flag at the interview offers a similar alarm bell.

Stay out of that water.

Find a role and company where you can provide value and where you feel valued for the value you provide.

That’s what happiness at work looks like!

Valerie gordon web3 beware these interview red flags!

Valerie Gordon, founder of The Storytelling Strategist, works with corporations to grow future leaders and build strong teams through the power of story. A former 10x Emmy-winning producer, she helps career seekers and high-achievers scale the leadership ladder through clear and compelling communication skills. Reach out to her to learn more about her keynotes and workshops.

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