4. Your would-be boss couldn’t explain the role clearly.
“If you’re having a hard time explaining the role to friends and family after an interview, that should raise some questions,” says David Lewis, a human resources consultant in Norwalk, Conn. “Sometimes hiring managers—especially ones who are visionary, entrepreneur types—think you’d be great at the company, but aren’t quite sure exactly what they want you to do. They’ll spend the interview talking about the company, the culture, but not exactly what you would do.”
Lewis says candidates shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and admit that the specifics of the role aren’t clear to them yet. “Sometimes people are afraid to do this, because they don’t want to rock the boat or make the hiring manager feel awkward,” he says. “But it’s important from the onset that you can clearly answer the question, ‘What will I be doing?’ ” Another good clarifying question: What would success look like in this role?
5. The company has high turnover, or a toxic culture.
Of course you’re going to do your homework before a job interview. Check LinkedIn to see what friends of friends you may know at a given company or organization, and read up.
When Kate Groebe*, 36, was contacted about a senior role with a stellar salary at a well-known company, she considered relocating her family for the opportunity—until her husband forwarded her an in-depth and reputable article chronicling the firm’s aggressive, antagonistic work culture, promoted by the hard-driving C.E.O. That was one factor Groebe had overlooked while busy getting starry-eyed about the package.
Similarly, if a hiring manager mentions that they’re refilling the role for the second or third time in a short amount of time, it’s important to ask why. Lewis says a good question to pose is what the person who recently had the role was doing five years ago, or what your hiring manager’s trajectory has been in the organization. If there’s been a lot of transferring out of the department you’d be working in, proceed with caution.
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6. The firm’s online reviews are bad.
Similarly, websites such as Glassdoor offer employees a place to anonymously review companies they’ve worked for. Since they are anonymous, they should be taken with a grain of salt. “A lot of these reviews can just be angry elves with an axe to grind,” Lewis says, but adds that it’s important to look for recurring themes in poor reviews.
If the reviews are recent and all seem to complain about the same thing—bad communication from management, low morale, etc.—that should carry some weight. While you should never lead with that information when you meet a recruiter or hiring manager, you can find a subtle way to ask about the company culture, or what sort of values or management techniques are embraced, during the question and answer portion of your interview.
7. Your interviewer asks personal questions.
“An interview should be objective, not emotional,” counsels Gentile, “and your interviewer shouldn’t blather on about her personal life, or probe about yours.” In general, asking personal questions—about your family, marital status, etc.—is never O.K.
“Hiring managers have lots of ways to try to find out if you’re married or have kids,” says Manciagli, “but that doesn’t mean you have to volunteer any information, especially if they start telling you about their own families. They might not even have one.” Bottom line: You’re there to talk about the job, not how you spent your weekend.
8. Your interviewer checks her email during your meeting.
Yes, we live in a digital age, but that doesn’t mean that someone should be checking their phone during the time they allotted to get to know you, says Manciagli. If they’re not paying attention during your interview, chances are they won’t be all ears when you’re an employee, either. Again, consider what role this person might play in your work life.
If it’s a recruiter, you probably needn’t be overly concerned. If it’s your future supervisor, and they demonstrate other less-than-courteous tendencies, take heed.