Interviewing for a job is a two-way street — and it can be paved with subtle red flags.
“The interview process is a direct line of sight into the culture of a company. The attention to detail, candidate experience, timeliness with responses, and generosity of shared information throughout the process is indicative of what will happen when you choose to join that organization.”
Some warning signs that an organization might not provide the dream job you’re hoping for are glaring: a hiring manager letting you wait an hour in the lobby or a mention that the last two people in the role you’re applying for have left.
Inflexibility around negotiations
Some companies think that it’s inappropriate for candidates to want to negotiate their salary. And you’ll want to stay away from them, as early inflexibility can be a sign that an organization has an antiquated culture.
“This is an issue when companies too often say, ‘We make one offer and it is a take-it-or-leave-it.’ Believe it or not, this mindset still exists. An organization who says, ‘They should want to work here and this is a fair offer’ will likely have an antiquated culture.”
Lack of access to the hiring manager
If you’re communicating more with HR than the hiring manager during the recruiting process, your first thought could be that the organization seems super organized. But a highly engaged recruiter combined with an elusive hiring manager can be a subtle red flag, especially later on in the hiring cycle when you’re discussing an offer.
“While HR may facilitate the written offer, the hiring manager should have the ability and interest to customize the offer that would work best to accommodate the possible new team member. If the hiring manager does not have time nor interest to facilitate these conversations, imagine when you need that person while you are working there.”
In fact, a strong HR team will feel nearly invisible. “HR should be like a great official in a sporting event, they should be there doing their job so well that you do not even know they are there and the game has a flow.”
Lack of collaboration when structuring your offer
To build on the two points mentioned above, a lack of collaboration when structuring your job offer is also something that should make you reconsider whether you want to join a company. Is the hiring manager responsive and looking to create a win-win scenario for you as far as work conditions and compensation? Or do you find yourself waiting for an answer and feeling like you did something wrong when asking about remote-work arrangements or bonuses?
Pay attention because that tells you a lot about how much an organization will be willing to create win-win scenarios when it comes to your career there.
The job sounds a bit vague
Perhaps you’re excited about the possibility of making a role your own and don’t like too much structure. But if your interviewer doesn’t communicate a clear picture of the role and the responsibilities you’d be taking on, you should at least ask more questions before accepting an offer.
The job might sound vague because it’s a new role and the organization is looking for a leader or subject-matter expert to build out a function and take it to the next level. But that could also mean that it consists of three jobs condensed into one and that you won’t have many resources. Or that you’ll end up having friction with other departments when it comes to project scope. Clarifying things early on is best.
A slow-moving hiring process
Slow feedback after your interactions with your prospective employer and extended time between interviews are red flags. A slow-moving hiring process can point to internal issues like disorganization, understaffing, or a lack of investment in people and culture.
Being advised that the company is interviewing several candidates and that you will hear back within a certain time frame is one thing. Getting ghosted for weeks and then hearing back is another.
Just like you’re putting your best foot forward for a job interview, your interviewers should be inclined to do the same. Missed phone calls or rescheduled interviews can signal a lack of commitment — and even a lack of respect — towards candidates who are investing their time and energy applying for the job.
While emergencies happen and one rescheduled phone call is not enough on its own to make you want to reconsider an offer, if this red flag is combined with any other ones, it might be your cue to run.