You’ve gotten your toe in the door for an interview with a company you’re excited about. You’ve done your research and visited their careers site, LinkedIn and Glassdoor pages. The job and the company seem like a great match for your skills and goals. But there’s one more important thing to remember—just before the interview, raise your antenna for warning signs this position or company is not right for you. It’s easy to forget amid the nerves and excitement, but it’s crucial to keep your eyes and ears open, and to ask questions, so you get a feel for how the business really runs. Here’s what to watch out for:
You spent a lot of time getting ready to put your best foot forward in your interview only to find the people interviewing you seem to be scanning your resumé for the first time and don’t have questions at the ready. This is unprofessional and disrespectful of your time and energy. It’s possible it’s a one-off caused by an unexpected situation at the office, in which case you deserve an explanation and an apology. If these aren’t forthcoming, be wary of moving forward.
Interviewing candidates is an ongoing part of any successful business, no matter the size. How a company handles the process shows a lot about its day-to-day workings. You want to get a sense that your recruiter is engaged in the interview and truly interested in learning about you. If you feel as though they are only half paying attention, chances are this is how they will approach your work and your career.
A quick offer may very well mean you are an obvious fit for the job and outshined the competition. However, it can also mean the company has a tendency for slapdash decisions or is desperate to fill the role. Thank them for the offer and tell them you need a day to think it over and you will let them know. Then go home and do a deep dive into Glassdoor to see if the negative reviews reveal any consistent complaints. Also, reach out to LinkedIn contacts who may have a connection with the company to see if they have any insights.
Don’t worry that you may lose the role because you took a day to decide. Any organization that is impatient with a person who takes time to think before they act is not worth working for.
Be wary if the hiring manager starts mentioning job responsibilities that weren’t included in the job description. This means they are not completely clear on what your position looks like, which can be a difficult starting point. If this is a startup that’s in a period of rapid change, however, this could be an opportunity to help craft a dream role. If so, that should be clarified during the discussion. It’s reasonable to mention the discrepancy and discuss whether the added competencies are in your wheelhouse. It’s also a good idea to ask for an updated job description that includes all of the expectations for the role. This ensures everyone is on the same page.
While an interview should focus primarily on what you bring to the table, it’s important also to tease out whether the company will support your career growth, and how they’ll do so. Ask if they have a formal career development strategy, and if they offer mentorships and training programs. You can also ask about where the people in your department were before, and if former team members moved on within the company. In smaller organizations without many opportunities for promotion, career development may involve upskilling employees who show initiative. That’s fair, and good to know. Vague answers to these questions indicate employee growth isn’t a priority, which is also good to know.
There shouldn’t be a glaring discrepancy between how the company describes itself on its careers page, or in employer brand videos, and what you see when you walk through the door. Of course, it won’t be a perfect match, but something’s off if a company draws attention to a collaborative, team culture and you observe everyone working quietly in their cubicles in the office. Or, an organization says they believe in transparency and open-door leadership, yet you have trouble getting thoughtful, straightforward answers from your would-be manager.
High turnover in a role could indicate a dysfunctional or toxic workplace, a job that is not clearly defined within the company, or a lack of opportunities to grow. It could also simply mean the previous two people in the role loved the job but had to move on for personal reasons. It’s always wise to ask why the person you would replace left the role and how long they were in the position. If possible, ask about the tenure of other people in your department, including the person who would be your boss.
Finally, check in with your gut when you walk through the office and meet people. Do they seem grim and put-upon when taken away from their work for introductions? Is everyone harried and skittish? Listen for laughter and conversation if that’s important to you. Pay attention to how people behave when the boss is in the department. It may be a quiet office due to the culture or the type of work, but even in such an environment, people should seem glad to be there and, above all, at ease.