Often, when we are looking for a new job we really want to make sure that we’re chosen by the potential employer. We may be motivated by a deep desire to pay off student debt, the need to provide for ourselves and our loved ones, and for the security that comes from a steady paycheck. In reality, however, we should also be evaluating a potential employer for their qualities.
Now that I’m approaching the 20-year mark since finishing university, I have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight from a lot of work experience.
Red flags that I’ve seen personally, or indirectly but up-close, include:
1. Noticeably high turnover
If a job really is terrific then people should not be motivated to leave, repeatedly. If a company is always recruiting yet never growing it’s a bad sign. It could mean that there is poor management, a lack of opportunity for advancement, a bad workplace culture, less-than-competitive pay, or something even more sinister like a culture of harassment and discrimination. If you see this company constantly advertising the same job opening, for example, take note, and apply with caution.
2. An endless hiring process
This one is tricky. Some organizations recognize that finding the right employee for a specific role may take a while. But in some cases, a long, drawn out, tedious hiring process implies that they don’t really know what they’re looking for. Then, even when they have reams of information about a job candidate, they are scared to make a decision.
Working in an organization where the leaders are driven by fear and are reluctant to make decisions can be an incredibly frustrating existence. Fear of taking well-managed calculated risks to the point of paralysis is something that can permeate a workplace. If that’s not your thing, you may have an extremely hard time working in that type of environment.
3. No explanation about why the position is open
When a position becomes available because an organization is growing or pivoting into a new area then the owners/leaders are normally happy to talk about it. These changes imply a forward momentum and progress. These developments are all easy to explain, and all make sense. When an organization is reluctant to explain why a position is available or they just beat around the bush, it may suggest that there’s a problem. It could be that nobody can stand working with someone who has been in a particular role for a long time. It could even point to a serious problem like workplace bullying or harassment.
4. The interview feels too easy
If your interview feels too easy, it could be a red flag. A serious interviewer looking to hire a professional candidate will be want to test your mettle with some hard questions. If you walk away thinking “that was too easy,” it can be a sign of high turnover, and that they’re looking for a warm body and almost any warm body will do.
5. The company isn’t “selling itself” to you
For most organizations, a job interview is still a formal affair. Be wary of a prospective employer who seems a little too casual about your time. Red flags are he or she being late for the interview, or repeatedly checking their email, texting, constant interruptions, and an overall sense that this person is generally not fully focussed on the interview.
A client of mine came in for some coaching after wasting her time on one too many interviews that just felt wrong. Was it her imagination, she wanted to know, was she just being too sensitive, or was this the way of things these days?
“I went for an interview for a management position that started off absolutely wrong. To begin with, the manager interviewing me had no idea who I was. She started off the interview by saying, “So I haven’t had a chance to read your resume. You have an HR background, right? Why did you leave your last job?” It was an awkward start, because I hadn’t actually left my job, and no, I’d never worked in HR. I felt disrespected right off the bat. I’d put a lot of effort into preparing. I’d sent this company a carefully crafted cover letter and a targeted resume; I’d invested in a new suit, and I’d rehearsed for hours how I would answer the typical interview questions. Twenty minutes in, I was thanking them for their time and heading for the door.”
A related red flag is when you don’t get to meet the actual boss to whom you’ll be reporting.
First interviews may be general screening interviews with HR, and they are often done by phone. If you go to a second interview and the boss to whom you would be reporting isn’t there, and never shows up to meet you (without any explanation) you may be walking into a hornet’s nest. Either there is a high turnover rate or the position isn’t important enough to warrant his/her attention. Worst of all, the boss is possibly being left out of the hiring process altogether – talk about a red flag!
Have you ever wished you could get inside the head of a hiring manager? You can. Dr. Helen Ofosu is a Career Coach/Counsellor with a difference. She has worked for organizations to create hiring and screening tools. She’s created countless pre-screening tests, interviews, simulations, and role plays for organizations of all kinds.
Dr. Helen’s training in Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology means she is a genuine expert in evaluating work-related behaviours. She uses those skills to help hiring managers tell the difference between people who say the right things during interviews and people who actually deliver on the job. In other words, Dr. Helen understands first-hand how job candidates are assessed.
More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.
I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.