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Part 1: Warning Signs Job Seekers Should Not Ignore

Warning signs in a job interview

The interview process can bring a plethora of unexpected experiences. Meeting someone or an organization for the first time can bring on all sorts of emotions, especially when you have your heart set on a role.

However, it's important to take off the rose-tinted glasses. Warning signs can be obvious or hard to spot. I have encountered quite the array of these, and I hope what I have learned can help others.

This is the first article in a two-part series. In this first part, I will be sharing what to look out for during an interview. The second article will share what to look out for when receiving the actual offer.

Question marks

No Questions (Or Very Few)

If the interviewer doesn't ask you any questions, I would seriously wonder why.

Sometimes the interviewer will do a lot of the talking, especially when answering your questions. (As a side note, you should always prepare questions in advance. If you normally do not, I recommend reading my article about the importance of asking questions in an interview.) The main point of the interview is for both sides to determine fit. A conversation that includes a variety of questions helps to do just that.

One of the reasons why the interviewer might not have asked any (or very few) questions is that they already made up their mind that you are a perfect fit. That might sound great, but it's possible they are in a desperate situation and have to fill the role fast. I recommend asking questions to find out why the role is open and the duration of the last few people who filled it.

Another reason could be the opposite. The interviewer might have mind up their mind that you are not a good fit, so they are just going through the motions. If you think this is the case, you could ask if they have any concerns about you being a good fit for the role. You might be able to address items that you wouldn't have had the chance to otherwise.

Salesperson talking on the phone

Too Much Convincing

If you have applied for a role, it's clear you are interested. Red flags happen when you start to feel like you are being oversold on the opportunity.

I'll give an example from one series of interviews I had. Each time I asked a question, I was redirected to the many exciting aspects of the business. I never got a straight answer; it felt like I was sitting with a salesperson the whole time.

It's possible that the interviewer is excited about you being a great candidate, so they are trying to get you as excited as they are. On the other hand, the interviewer might be trying to cover up something about the role or company. I would ask questions to get a better understanding of what the challenges of the role and company are.

Thumbs down

Negative Talk

I once stepped into a role and ignored all of the warning signs that the interviewer's excessive negative talk had made me feel. The person before me had been fired for many reasons, and I learned about every single one of them (many times and over several conversations). After I was brought on, the negative talk continued every single day. Needless to say, I quickly left that role.

It is helpful to understand the ways in which you could bring an extra level of service. However, incessant bad-mouthing can create a negative work environment. Who wants to work in one of those?!

If the conversation turns to bad mouthing a previous employee, it could be a sign of a negative environment. It's possible that you might be the one talked about in a similar manner one day.

Unhappy face

Minimal Positive Talk

Are you getting the sense that the person interviewing you doesn't like working at the company? Maybe they don't have many highlights to share, they are not smiling a lot, or you are just getting the vibe that they are unhappy.

Whatever the reason, I would ask what they enjoy about working at the company. If they struggle with an answer, that might be a warning you cannot ignore.

Think back to your favorite job. If someone asked what you liked the most about it, wouldn't you have lots of reasons to gush about?

Conveyor belt

High Turnover Rate

It's not fun being in a role where you feel like you could get fired at any moment for any reason.

I once stepped into a role where I didn't learn about the excessive turnover rate until shortly after I started. At least every two months someone was fired for something small. It didn't take long before I felt like any day could be my last, too. Although I was one of the few "survivors" (a term my other long-term colleagues and myself called each other), it was a high-stress environment the whole time I was there.

Similar to what I discussed in the "No Question" section above, I recommend asking questions to find out the duration of previous employees. It's stressful going through the job search process, but we want the end result to last. No one wants to commit to a role with an uncertain future.

Warning sign

Illegal Questions

It blows my mind that these days we still have to worry about being asked illegal questions. Not only does this mean that you might be a victim of discrimination, but the company could also be sued.

I shared my experience of being asked illegal interview questions with the LGBT Admin and Assistant Network as well as what I learned about how to handle them. I recommend checking out that post if you would like to learn those tips.

There are a couple of considerations to keep in mind. It's possible you are being profiled. It's also possible that the interviewer might not know they are doing something wrong. Unfortunately, you will have to use your gut and best judgment to determine which situation your experience falls in.

I know there are many other warning signs. Which ones have you learned? Please share in the comments below!

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