7 Signs You’re Interviewing for the Wrong Job

After hammering out each version of your résumé, polishing your various cover letters and submitting all of those applications, you’re understandably laser focused on one thing:  landing the interview.   After all, getting an interview means you’ve cleared one of the biggest hurdles between you and that job you want.  And the more you want that job, the easier it is to get swept away by your desire to dazzle your potential new employer.  But while you’re busy practicing your wise responses, drafting your insightful questions and choosing the perfect clothes, don’t forget that other (equally important) goal for this stage in the process:  sizing up the employer.  This is your opportunity to take a closer, more scrutinizing look at the company and the hiring manager.  Are they the right fit for you?

The next time you’re preparing for your interview, think like a consumer and remember the words, caveat emptor, buyer beware.  You’re not just there to sell yourself as the best candidate.  You’re also there (respectfully) kick some tires, do some comparison shopping, and decide what’s best for you.  Here are 7 danger signs that it’s better to walk away.

1. The hiring manager seems to be reading your résumé for the first time during the interview.
Yes, the manager is busy.  If you’re the seventh candidate they’re seeing that day, they may need a minute to get your resume out of the blur and back into focus.  Or maybe there was a mix-up and, somehow, you are sitting face-to-face with a hiring manager who clearly has no idea who you are.  But does the manager acknowledge this egregious lack of preparation and work hard to get up to speed on your qualifications?  Or does she proceed to tap dance her way through the conversation, pretending to be prepared? That is a colossal – and disrespectful – waste of your time.  While I’m not suggesting that you pack your briefcase and walk out, I am recommending that you proceed with extreme caution.

2. No Clear Opportunities or Paths to Advancement.
You’re talking about this job.  But you need to know how many paths lead from this job to larger opportunities.  When you ask about career paths and advancement within the organization, you should hear clear, well-articulated responses.  Are their internal training programs?  Formal mentoring?  Job shadowing? Tuition reimbursement?  Ask how they work – and have worked – within that department?  Ask how many people have moved from this department into larger positions within the organizaitons.  Do people often get promoted from within?  Do they participate in the development programs that exist?  Be sure you have a clear understanding of how it really works and whether it sounds like it will work for you.  If you get vague or non-committal responses, you have reason to be concerned.

3.  The Job is a Revolving Door
Always, always ask why the job is open.  If it’s a new position because the company or team is growing, that’s potentially great news for you.  But if you hear about multiple, short-term incumbents or a history of failures of the others who occupied the position previously, ask what has led to such turnover.  High turnover happens for a reason.  Usually it’s a bad one, like unrealistic expectations, poor management, dysfunctional teams – or all of the above.   You need to hear the manager describe key lessons learned and substantial changes made to the position that will set the new hire up for success.  Anything less than that is cause for pause.

4.  The hiring manager can’t tell you about the job expectations in detail.
If you think I’m joking, I’m not.  Often, managers are given expanded responsibility and told to ramp up their staffing.  And more often than you may imagine, those managers leap into the hiring process without stopping to get themselves up to speed on what, exactly, they’ll be managing.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the job is wrong for you.  It does mean that you should get a clear understanding of why the manager is being vague.  If they’re a rock solid, strategically strong boss who doesn’t like to get buried in the details – but does like to empower self starters who can figure it out for themselves, that could be perfect… as long as that’s who you are.  But if you’re looking for someone who is expert in your role and capable of mentoring and coaching you through it, the job is not for you.   

5.  Online Reviews of the Employer are Consistently Bad
Do plenty of online research before you get to the interview.  Do general searches to pick up any recent headlines.  But also go onto employer review sites like Glassdoor.com and go deep.  Because these sites give current and previous employees a platform to share their experiences and opinions anonymously, you get a window onto real life on the inside.  As with any review site, you need to be careful when reading outlier comments.  But look for trends and common complaints.  And if there are warning signals, politely but directly ask about them during your interview.  If your interviewer says they’ve never heard a peep about any an issue that was voiced repeatedly in online reviews, run for the hills.  That manager is either hopelessly out of the loop or not being completely honest with you.  Instead, you need to hear the complaint acknowledged and explained.  And you need to hear what solutions are being put in place.

6.  There is a lack of respect among team members.
Unless you’re escorted to the interview in a safety bubble, you will likely have several opportunities to observe the people who work there.  What’s that like?  Are people generally respectful, courteous, happy – and appropriate in their interactions with you and each other?  What about the hiring manager?  If his way of complimenting you is to insult the previous incumbent, know this:  you’re likely next.  Imagine what would happen if you walked into the interview and proceeded to sling shade at your old boss or coworkers.  Your name would be crossed of the consideration list, right?  Same rules apply here.

People who have a genuine respect for others will show that respect at all times. If you don’t see people being treated with dignity in the workplace, it’s not the workplace for you.