If you’re on the lookout for a new job you’re likely to go into interviews worried about how you can impress them, but remember—it goes both ways. How can you interview them to make sure they’re the right fit for you? Look for these potential warning signs in interviews before you accept a job that might not be an ideal fit.
Lack of enthusiasm for the job.
Sometimes interview experiences feel tense. A little bit of nerves from both interviewee and interviewer are normal, but you should be concerned if the recruiter seems overly tired, disinterested, or doesn’t have some kind of excitement about the job. Ask them what they like about their job and see what they say. If they’re not excited to be there, chances are you won’t be either.
Also important to note—does the interviewer seem interested in you and the value you bring? If they don’t spend very much time with you, or seem distracted during the interview, this could be a bad sign. Perhaps they've already filled the position and are only interviewing you to fill a quota, or, perhaps worse, they don't value the position or value finding the right people. They should be excited about you and about the value you could bring to the company.
This one is easy to spot. Is any part of the interview process confusing? Do they leave you in the dark or not follow through? This isn’t always a dealbreaker, because things happen, but it could indicate what your experience will be like once you join the company. Don’t assume that communication will magically get better if it's already bad during the hiring process.
Poor communication is especially troubling when it comes to the job description. If the duties of the job aren’t clear in the listing and aren’t easily clarified during the interview process, you may be setting yourself up for a job that doesn’t meet your expectations. Make sure you get your job description in writing, and clarify any questions in the interview process. Unfortunately, sometimes people are promised a job or position only to find out on day one it’s not what they expected.
Gaslighting or manipulation.
What does gaslighting look like in an interview? Anything that undervalues your experience or is intended to make you doubt yourself is gaslighting. The interviewer may look at your resume and make comments that understate your qualifications. If you feel more like you’re being interrogated than interviewed, it may be a warning sign that this is a company that operates with intimidation rather than collaboration.
Gaslighting can also happen in the negotiation phase. When an offer is extended there may be a specific budget or range they have to stick to, but if they belittle your request or try to convince you you’re not worth what you're asking, it is likely a sign that it’s a workplace that won’t value you. In a time of economic uncertainty some companies will try and convince you that you’re lucky to have a job at all. And, while maybe it is true that you just need a job, be aware of the signs of a negative workplace so you can be better prepared to face them.
Side note: belittling is a big warning sign in any situation. Everyone wants to work somewhere that recognizes the good in people instead of focusing on the bad, and if an organization or group of people speaks negatively about people or their achievements, that should give you pause. Conversely, employee recognition has a big impact on how you feel at work, so make sure you end up somewhere that prioritizes appreciation and positivity.
It gets too personal.
Certain questions are actually illegal to ask during the interview process. Interviewers cannot ask about the following (though it’s not limited to just this list):
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation or gender identity
- Country of origin
While some of these may come out in small talk, remember that you have no obligation to answer anything that would imply the answer to any of these questions. For example, someone asking about your family could be genuine small talk, but it is not a necessary part of the interview process. You’re not required to answer these questions, but it could be a good gauge of how inclusive a workplace is, so it’s up to you how you respond.
Even if you do not fall into any category that could be discriminated against, you don’t want to work for a company that is discriminatory. Be sure and notice how they talk about different people or issues (see our bit about belittling above). A diverse workplace benefits everyone.
Pro tip: Have a prepared answer for when an interviewer tries to break the ice with a question like “So tell us a little about yourself?” Your answer should be unique to you, but doesn’t have to reveal anything you don’t want to reveal about yourself.
The interviewer evades your questions.
First of all, make sure you come prepared with questions to ask. Generally an interviewer will conclude an interview by asking if you have any questions. And if they don’t, that’s even more of a reason to ask questions. Here’s a list of questions if you’re not sure what to ask. The most important thing, however, is to ask questions that matter to you. What isn’t being said is just as important as what is said. If they evade questions, chances are they don’t have good answers. Don't be afraid to press them a bit.
Find the right fit for YOU.
Remember, everyone has different limits, needs, and wants—so decide what is important to you and don’t compromise on those things. If you need work-life balance, look for clues and ask questions that help you determine if the place you’re interviewing at will be conducive to that. If they have an unlimited PTO policy, ask about how that’s handled. If you value a robust parental leave, good benefits, creativity, autonomy, or any number of those—be sure and ask about those things. Don’t assume anything, and do the best research you can so you can make the most educated choice possible.
Happy interviewing, and best of luck with your job search!