Job Interview Red Flags That Should Send You Running

A job interview can tell you a lot more about a company and its office culture than you think, if you know what signs to look out for.
The gradsingapore Team
Elliyani Mohamad Ali
Chief Editor, gradsingapore

So you’re ready for your job interview tomorrow. You have your professional outfit perfectly ironed and pressed, your bag ready with all the important documents and you’ve researched all night on some interview questions you can expect. You’re all set to impress and show you’re a perfect fit for the company. But, plot twist. What if the company is not what you’re looking for? Even worse, what if the company actually adopts a hostile or toxic work culture?

An unhealthy and negative work environment leads to never-ending stress, low morale and unrest. You may think you’re able to put up with it because you’re desperate for a job, but chances are, such an environment leads to high turnover so you’re likely to be back on the job market soon. By then, your confidence would have been shattered, and the experience left you feeling battered, traumatised and doubting your capabilities.

This is why it’s important to suss out the workplace culture first, and the interview provides you with the best opportunity to put on your investigative glasses. In fact, there are some quick signs to find out if the workplace you’re interviewing at is straight out of The Devil Wears Prada playbook.

The interviewer exhibits unprofessional behaviour

Good manners and professional behaviours are expected out of everyone, especially at work. So, if your interviewer keeps checking his mobile phone during the interview and frequently badmouths the person you’re replacing, these are glaring red flags. If your interviewer is your direct supervisor, expect similar behaviours when it comes to your everyday work. And if your interviewer isn’t, well, the company tolerates and accepts such behaviours, so it’s safe to assume that the other employees probably conduct themselves similarly.

Red Flags in an Interview_01_The interviewer exhibits unprofessional behaviour

Your interviewer could not explain your job role clearly

Another point of the job interview is to fully understand the purpose of the job you’re applying for. If you’re unable to get a clear answer on what’s expected from your job, then you should be concerned about it. The reason could be something as innocent as the job you’re applying for is a new role and they’re still trying to formulate the right list of responsibilities and tasks, or it could be an indication your future supervisor is highly disorganised. If your own supervisor doesn’t know what your job entails, then how will you be able to be fairly evaluated? If they’re not able to provide you with such basic information, you can pretty much infer that there are many other uncertainties that come with the job as well.

Red Flags in an Interview_02_The interviewer could not explain your job purpose clearly

The hiring process is too long or short

If you’re an entry-level candidate, you’ll typically need to go for a couple of rounds of interviews, including taking a test. Whereas for senior roles, you’ll likely be expected to go through multiple rounds of tests and interviews before talks of a job offer can even be brought up. However, if you find the situations being reversed instead, then it’s probably something to worry about. Hiring processes that go for weeks or months for entry-level positions can either be due to indecision by the management or that the workplace is steeped in bureaucracy and red tape.

Red Flags in an Interview_03_The hiring process is too long or short

Disorganised interview scheduling

It’s normal to have changes to the scheduling process. Perhaps an urgent matter cropped up or the hirer’s earlier meeting ran longer than expected. However, it’s a red flag if they keep rescheduling your interview, or you had to wait over an hour for them to be available for you. If they don’t act like they value your time, then your work will likely not be valued if you’re employed there.

Red Flags in an Interview_04_Disorganised interview scheduling

Depressing workplace

The office walls are grey, the fluorescent ceiling lights are dim and the meeting room you’re in is windowless. The floor is almost silent without a single huff of laughter or cheerful conversation to be heard. For some, it’s a typical office environment. For others, it’s a demoralising pit of a hole that sucks the life out of people. If you’re the bubbly creative type, this kind of office space is especially not for you. If this is what you see during your interview, you should probably cut it short.

Red Flags in an Interview_05_Depressing workplace

Remember, you’ll be spending at least half of your waking time at work. If you dread the work environment and the people you work with, you’ll likely be mentally and emotionally affected in the long run. Don’t do that to yourself. You deserve a healthy workplace and professional colleagues to work with. It might take some searching, but put in the effort and be patient. It’ll be worth it in the end!