Is this really a perfect company? 5 red flags to look out for during an interview

Aug 16, 2016 | Article

In the same way that a company can make a bad hiring decision, it's just as possible for job hunters to select the wrong job, taking on a position at an organization laden with problems.

Most people forget that a job interview actually serves a dual purpose: the employer is there to learn more about the candidate, and the job seeker is there to learn more about the company. Given that employers tend to hold all the cards, so to speak - they can extend or refuse a job offer - candidates tend to forget to examine the interviewing company through a critical lens. Put another way, instead of keeping their eyes peeled for signs that the company is dysfunctional, many candidates will instead pour all their energy into impressing the interviewer, missing problematic signs in the process. This is especially true of young job seekers, eager to secure their first job as quickly as possible.

This is of course a mistake. In the same way that a company can make a bad hiring decision, it's just as possible for job hunters to select the wrong job, taking on a position at an organization laden with problems.

Next time you head to an interview, it's important to look for any red flags from the interviewer or in the company culture. Check out this list of five of the most significant red flags:

1. High turnover
If the company you are interviewing for is looking to fill multiple job vacancies at once, it could be a red flag that there was a recent mass exodus or cull, which in turn indicates problems within the company culture. The Muse recommended asking the interviewer how long employees typically stay in the position for. Anything less than two years or so could be a bad sign.

2. Lateness
In the same way that it's the height of rudeness for a candidate to be late for an interview, the same rules should be applied to the hiring manager. As Forbes explained, while some unforeseen circumstances can't be avoided, if a manager arrives excessively late and doesn't offer a heartfelt apology and explanation, it's likely a red flag that they are a rude and inconsiderate boss.

"There are questions that employers legally cannot ask."

3. Vagueness
If the employer is unable to give you a clear and concise account of the open position and your expected duties and responsibilities, that's usually a negative sign. As Forbes detailed, this is because some hiring managers, especially at startup companies, may look to hire candidates without actually having a solid idea of what they will be expected to do. And without a clear agreement as to what the role will be, the employer could manipulate the situation and pile on the workload or make unfeasible demands in the event that you get hired.

An interview is an opportunity for both the employer and employee to learn more about each other.

4. Unprofessional demeanor
It's of course wonderful if you hit it off with your hiring manager right off the bat and are able to make relaxed small talk. It is problematic, however, if you find that the interviewer is too relaxed and unprofessional, and spends an inappropriate amount of time talking about non-work related topics. Professionalism is key to interviews and should be expected of both parties. If the hiring manager seems too relaxed, it reveals a lot about his or her attitude to work, management style and the company culture as a whole. While most people would surely welcome a laid back atmosphere, many would agree that a non-stop party office isn't conducive to success and career advancement.

5. Asking inappropriate questions
As Lifehacker pointed out, there are a number of questions that employers legally cannot ask, so if you find yourself asked any of the following, it's a significant indication that there is a problem with the company culture. Questions about race, religion and sexuality are big no-nos. Seemingly more innocent questions such as, "are you married?" are also illegal.

So what do you do?
If you observe warning signs, should you run as fast and as far away as possible? "While red flags should indicate that maybe more research is required before making a decision, you should not write off an opportunity based on a singular experience," says Navjit Dang, Recruiting Manager at Beacon Hill Staffing Group's Technologies Division in Madison. "Further investigation and appropriate weighing based on your reason for the opportunity and how it helps you achieve your career goals is a prudent way to come to the right decision."

Furthermore, Ms. Dang notes there are some proactive measures a job seeker can take during the interview to weigh against the red flags s/he recognizes. "By observing and asking good questions, a candidate can get a better idea about the company and opportunity." Some things she notes to pay attention to are:

• How a manager comes across to you;
• The manager's choice of words – is it positive or negative?
• How interested is the manager in hearing your ideas?
• Can s/he define what success looks like in the role you are interviewing for?
• Can s/he explain what they like about the company?
• Can s/he articulate what challenges you will face?
• Does s/he even give you an opportunity to ask questions?

"It's imperative that you walk out of an interview with all of your questions answered and that you have the ability to answer this question – 'if they offer the job, will I take it?'" adds John O'Grady, Recruiting Manager for Beacon Hill's Pharma Division in Chicago. "You typically only get one shot to answer and ask questions. Finding the right fit oftentimes means exploring the company as a contractor prior to becoming a permanent employee. Trust your gut above all else!"

By keeping these things in mind, you can be more than just a reactive observer when you arrive at an interview. Being aware of warning signs, as well as doing some preparation beforehand, will ensure that, when you get the job, it will be the right one for you.

This content is brought to you by the Marketing Department at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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