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5 Interview Red Flags: Avoid Taking the Wrong Job!

Posted July 3, 2014 by Dana Vogel in Career Moves
When you’re on the hunt for a new job, it’s easy to get wrapped up in trying sell yourself to potential employers. It’s so easy, in fact, that you can forget to step back and ask yourself if you really want this job. This is especially true if you’re employed or miserable in your current position — but the last thing you want to do is move from a bad situation to a worse one. So how do you avoid making the wrong move? Look for these five interview red flags … and proceed with cation if you find one:

Red Flag #1. – Vagueness on the part of your interviewer

One of my favorite interview questions is, “What would my day-to-day look like in this roles?” When answered honestly, it should clarify any confusion you have about the responsibilities outlined in the job description. However, if your interviewer is vague in his or her answer, it might be a sign that the position isn’t clearly defined or isn’t in line with the job description. Hearing “No two days are the same!” makes a job sound fun and dynamic, but could mean that there’s something the employer is hiding. Similarly, if you ask about room for growth at the company and your interviewer dances around the subject, if could mean there’s actually no room for promotion.

Red Flag #2. – The person currently in the role is jumping ship

Another favorite interview question of mine is, “What created the need to fill this position?” This will allow you to find out some history of the position such as if it’s a new role, if your potential predecessor was promoted (room for promotion!), or if the person in the role left the company. If it is the case that the person in the role is leaving or has already left the company, you may want to do a little digging on your own on LinkedIn to see how long he or she was in the position. Quick turnover can often mean something is amiss or that there’s little or no room for promotion.

Red Flag #3. – The interviewer doesn’t seem to understand your background

When making the move from editorial to marketing, I was once asked in an interview if I’d be OK with the fact that I’d no longer have the opportunity to write. The problem was, I hadn’t written for years in my day job (I was an editor), and my resume was pretty clear about that. I quickly realized that my interviewer didn’t quite understand how much experience I actually had. This can be a problem because you could end up in a job beneath your skill set, leaving you bored and frustrated. Make sure you and your interviewer are on the same page about your skills and what you’re looking for in a new role.

Red Flag #4. – You’re not asked for work samples or a skill assessment

While this certainly isn’t true across the board, it’s fairly common in many industries to ask potential employees for work samples or to take a skill assessment test – especially with early career employees. In editorial, I was usually asked to send writing clips and to take an edit test. A lot of marketing and sales jobs will ask for a sample powerpoint presentation, programming jobs will often require a code writing test, and jobs in the financial industry might require an excel test. If you’re in a industry where this is common, be wary of employers who don’t ask for this. It could mean the job requires very basic skills or it could be a sign of a workplace where you’ll be micromanaged anyway.

Red Flag #5. – Your interview is negative, disorganized, or badmouths coworkers

The final red flag to look out for is a negative or disorganized hiring manager. If a person can’t at least pull together a positive attitude for interviewing potential employees, they definitely won’t be any better once you’re working under them. Run!

What other red flags do you look for when you’re interviewing?

About the Author

Dana Vogel

Dana is a marketing associate in Manhattan, where she's lived since 2012. She specializes in custom content and content marketing. Before that, she had worked as an associate editor at Babble.com since May 2012. Dana has interned at Redbook magazine and a handful of newspapers. She is an alumna of the University of Pennsylvania and volunteers as a alumni interviewer helping to chose the next classes of Penn students. In her free time, she loves bargain hunting for designer clothes, working out, investing, and advancing her career.