Watch Out For These Red Flags in Your Next Job Interview

Company culture is a key part of any workplace. But, unfortunately, it’s not always the easiest thing to discern before you sign your name on the dotted line of that offer letter. Sure, you can do your research and dig through the organization’s social media profiles—that can at least give you some idea of what you can expect in terms of culture. However, it can still be difficult to really know what you’re in for until you’ve put in at least a few weeks on the job.

Yes, your lack of a culture crystal ball can make things tough. But, that doesn’t mean you should call the whole thing a wash, cross your fingers, and hope for the best! Instead, there are a few red flags you can keep your eyes peeled for during your interview that can clue you in about a company’s culture. Curious? Take note of these warning signs and—if necessary—run far, far away.

1. Disposition

Of course, we all have bad days at work. So, an off mood here or there shouldn’t really throw you off your game and assume the worst about a company. It happens.

But, if your interviewer seems to repeatedly be in a funk—for example, he’s crabby during your phone interview and even more terse when you attend your in-person meeting—that could be a potential red flag you’ll want to take note of.

Why is he in such a foul mood all of the time? Perhaps he’s just a miserable person in general. Or, maybe his job is causing that sour disposition. However, it’s important to remember this—even if it’s just his natural tendency to be snappy and disinterested (and has nothing to do with the company itself), is that really someone you’ll want to work closely with regardless?  

2. Attire

You know that you always need to dress professionally for your interviews. But, paying close attention to what the hiring manager and other employees in the office are wearing can give you some great insight into what sort of work environment you can anticipate.

Is your interviewer in a pencil skirt or a three-piece suit? If you’re someone who prefers to wear jeans and sandals to work, that more formal dress code might not mesh with you. In contrast, if you’re someone who loves getting dressed up for a day in the office but everyone else is wandering around in their broken-in college t-shirts, then that likely won’t be the place for you either.

3. Length of the Interview

I know, nobody wants to suffer through a strenuous four-hour interview. But, on the flipside of that coin, you don’t want to be pushed in and out of the door in 15 minutes flat either.

So, if your interviewer seems to be distracted, rushed, and eager to brush you off and just get you out of the way, that can be a clear sign of how that entire company feels about their employees and hiring decisions.

As painful or nerve-racking as it might be, you want an employer who takes their time to ensure they’re identifying the best fit for their organization—and that means a somewhat detailed and comprehensive interview. After all, if a company is that dismissive of you when you’re only a candidate, how will you be treated when you actually become an employee?

4. Interactions

As you might suspect, the hiring manager’s behavior is going to be one of your biggest clues about how people interact and treat each other in the office.

For example, does she start the interview off with some small talk, and seem genuinely interested in getting to know you? If you’re someone who enjoys a friendly work environment, that could be just what you’re looking for. Does she skip the niceties entirely and get right down to business? If you’re someone who likes to cut to the chase, that could be a great fit for you.

Beyond how the hiring manager engages with you, see if you can take note of how other people are interacting in the office. Does she stop to say hello or introduce you to people on your walk to the conference room? Or, does everyone seem to keep their heads down and their eyes on their work?

You can learn a lot by just observing. So, remember not to get so wrapped up in your interview nerves that you neglect to notice what’s happening around you!

5. Quality of the Questions

Similarly to the length of your interview, the quality of the questions asked of you is also something you’ll want to pay attention to. Is the hiring manager prepared with questions that are well thought out and engaging? Or, does it seem like he quickly scribbled down some questions right before you arrived?

How much preparation an employer puts into an interview can definitely be revealing. Again, it’s just another indicator that they truly care about the people that they bring onboard.

Want a bonus tip? At the end of the interview, you’ll likely be asked if you have any questions for your interviewer. Your go-to question? Ask about the best part of working in that office. If the hiring manager responds immediately with a great answer, you’ll feel more confident that it’s an awesome place to work. If she hesitates and then mentions the unlimited vacation policy? Well, that’s a definite red flag.

It’d be great to have a crystal ball to give you the lowdown on company culture before you ever decide to accept a position, wouldn’t it? While I can’t supply you with our own fortune-teller, these interview warning signs can be solid indicators of what you can expect from that work environment. So, open your eyes and ears and prepare to soak up as much information as possible during your interview!

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Kat Boogaard

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Kat is a Wisconsin-based freelance writer covering topics related to careers, self-development, and entrepreneurship. Her byline has appeared in numerous outlets and publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, QuickBooks, Business Insider, and more. Find out more about her on her website, or connect with her on Twitter.

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