If you are stuck in the job search process, getting an interview can be a huge step. You only get one interview for what seemed like every thousand applications you submit. By the time you secure a date for the meeting, a mix of excitement and desperation typically sets in. You just want to be done with applications, questionnaires, and rewriting your resume for the millionth time. As we all do, you thoroughly prepare for meeting your prospective new employer by rehearsing answers and picking the perfect outfit. You go into an interview with the mindset that the point of this is for you to impress the hiring manager, that this is your final test. The hiring manager is the proverbial gatekeeper that you must begrudgingly pass to enter this professional world you have spent months barred from. I personally have done all of these things and after lots of awful, ill-fitting jobs, I am here to admit I was wrong. Way wrong.
Interviews, yes, are about impressing the hiring manager but they are equally about you getting a sense of that company and the tasks that your day will consist of in that role. That’s right; you are not given a job, you accept a job. You decide what is right for you and what will better your life, not the hiring manager.
When you have been immersed in the job hunt for a long time, you will think what I am saying is unrealistic and foolhardy but it is the most practical advice that I can give, and I wish someone had given me. While finding a job is draining and humiliating, having to endure a work environment that you can’t or won’t thrive in is even worse. That job will take a more significant toll on your self-esteem and only keep you from finding the right position for even longer.
I would like to share with you the six warning signs that a position may not be the right for you. These are not hard and fast rules but are realistic indicators you should be on the lookout for when you go for your next interview.
1. The Walk Through
When you go for your interview pay attention to the employees, workspace, and overall sense you get from this company. How are the employees dressed? Do they seem stressed or unfriendly? Is tension in the air? While you only have time to make quick judgments that might not paint the whole picture, if there are red flags that this is a work culture that does not feel right, don’t ignore that. These are the people, and the environment you will be expected to work in on a daily basis. You have to feel comfortable.
2. The Sales Pitch
When you walk into the interview, armed with days of preparation, you are nervous but ready for all their questions. It can seem almost like a relief when you are 15 minutes in, and they have only asked you a few no-brainers like your name, or basic information on your resume. If the hiring manager only spends moments learning about you, and the rest of the interview pitching the job, start paying attention closely. If they aren’t concerned about your qualifications, they might just be looking for a warm body to fill an undesirable position. This could mean they have had high turnover with this job, are understaffed or are uninterested in who you are. All of this spells a recipe for disaster.
3. The Pause
Near the end of the interview, when it's your turn to ask questions, make sure to ask the hiring manager about their experience working for this company. Do they enjoy working here, what’s their favorite part, etc. They can either answer enthusiastically, or give you the dreaded pause. If they need to take a moment and filter what they have to say about the company, they are probably holding back something. While as the hiring manager they will of course only tell you the good, this could be a warning sign that this is an unfavorable work environment.
4. The Vague Job Description
If the description of the job on the ad is not clear, make sure to ask in the interview. If the hiring manager dances around what a “typical day” will look like or what will be expected of you, be cautious. “Conduct professional presentations to prospective and existing customers” sounds great but what does it mean? If you don’t ask these questions, you might end up, for example, cold calling businesses all day or standing on the side of the road swinging a sale sign. While that may or may not be a task you are interested in, it's important to understand what will be asked of you to make an informed decision.
5. The Leadership
Whether you are interviewed by your potential supervisor or a general hiring manager, it's essential to learn about your manager’s typical leadership style and reputation. While the hiring manager may not be directly familiar with the in’s and out’s of your department, you can ask them to give you a general idea of the leadership you will be working for. I suggest asking an open-ended type question such as, “Can you give me a little information about the manager I will be working for?” Let them tell you what they want. You will learn more from how they answer than what they actually say. Again, if they pause or seem unsure what to say, it could be a sign they don’t want to scare you away. In that case, you should be scared.
If you are talking directly to your potential manager, ask them about their leadership style and the expectations they hold their staff to. The more they talk, the more you can get an idea of what they will be like on a day to day basis. Ask them what attributes they personally are looking for in their new hire. If they seem cold, disconnected or unsure, they may not be someone you want to work for.
6. The Peculiar Question
This can be rare but is a major red flag that this is not a job you want to accept. In the middle of the interview, if you are asked a particular, somewhat out of place question, you can’t ignore it. For example, if you are asked, “Are you comfortable with profanity?” you need to question why this is something they would even ask. Typically if there is a highly-specific question thrown into the mix, you can bet, whatever it is will be a part of your daily work.
Whenever you spot one of these glaring signs, you will feel compelled to run out the door and never look back. While that is unbelievably tempting, it’s in your best interest to see the interview through. Any interview is a great chance to practice your skills and make a business connection. This may not be the job or company for you but turning down the opportunity to make a good impression can not only be detrimental to your job search but to your future in that arena.
Finding a job is a daunting, heartbreaking process but don’t let your desperation outweigh your need to find a job that will professionally and emotionally satisfy you. Don’t take these red flags for granted or underestimate the adverse effects the wrong position can have on you. It took me a long time to learn these basic signs, but I hope you don’t ever suffer the same pitfalls.