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Danger Signs in a Job Interview

Danger Signs in a Job Interview

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

A reader writes:

Can you give some advice to first-time job-seekers on how to verify the legitimacy of companies posting job opportunities?

I recently was blindsided by being hired into a company that lacked any sort of professionalism or integrity. Although I’ve gracefully dealt with an entry-level customer service position for two years, I walked out of this job in tears after six hours. In hindsight, there were many red flags — the job description was minimal, the interviewer didn’t ask me any personality-based questions, there was no “about us” section or mission statement on their website. When I went in to work, they made me do telemarketing with only 20 minutes of training, treated me with disdain and fired me on the first day for not understanding a system no one had taught me.

Are there other potential “red flags” that new job seekers should be aware of during the application and interviewing process? I’m just glad I had given two weeks’ notice at my first job and was able to get my position back. Those before me might not have been so lucky.

If there are obvious warning signs job seekers like me should be aware of, let us know! Too many people are so desperate for jobs these days that we’ll take anything, even if our gut instinct is telling us something’s wrong.

Listening to your gut is probably the most important one. But of course, when you’re new to the work world, it can be hard for your gut to know if something is off or not.

I’ve written before about danger signs when you’re interviewing for a job. In that post we covered flakiness, taking forever to get back to you, not bothering to tell you when a timeline changes (although that one’s alarmingly common), high turnover, and zero turnover. Let’s add to that list:

• Are they rude or inconsiderate? Do they treat you like you’re an unwelcome interruption? Do they ask you to do inconvenient things, such as interviewing on just a few hours notice, without acknowledging or apologizing for the inconvenience?

• Do they seem totally uninterested in making sure you get to know them and that you have a solid understanding of what the job entails?

• Are they unfriendly? If they don’t seem like people you’d want to work with, pay attention to that.

• Do you feel like they’re trying to sell you something? Are they painting a picture of a job that sounds way too good to be true? Smart employers will be honest not just about the upsides of a job, but also about the downsides. Employers who try to downplay the less attractive aspects of the job—such as boring work or long hours—end up with employees who don’t want to be there. Look for truth in advertising.

• Are they resistant or vague when you ask questions about the details of the job offer, such as precisely what their pay structure is or how training will work?

• What are others saying about them on the Internet? Search for their company name plus the word “scam” or “complaints” and see what you find.

What would you guys add to this list?

Next: Illegal Interview Questions to Avoid >>