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Phoenix Forward

7 red flags to look for in a job interview

People sitting across from each other at an interview.

You can't help but be optimistic and excited for your upcoming job interview. But sometimes, maybe shortly into the interview, or even hours afterward, it dawns on you that something isn't right, the company or the employees.

Sometimes it's just a bad vibe, says Donna Wyatt, PhD, SPHR, who teaches human resources management courses in the MBA program at University of Phoenix. Other times, the interviewee latently recognizes peripheral visual or audio cues, like an overabundance of empty cubicles or gossiping co-workers.

"It's important to pay attention to these cues," says Wyatt, who is also the organization development manager at Kaman Industrial Technologies Corporation in Connecticut. "And don't go accepting offers interviewers give right on the spot. Wait until you can process some of these potential red flags." Here, seven signs to watch for on your next interview:


The interviewer is disorganized.

The interviewer schleps in late or starts shuffling through paperwork on his desk to find your resumé. Likewise, Wyatt notes, you look around and see a disheveled work environment: cluttered desks, structural disrepairs or ad-hoc workspaces. This, she notes, can be a larger indicator that the boss lacks direction or, perhaps, a sound infrastructure budget.


There's poor internal communication.

Many times, Wyatt says, an interviewee will have several separate interviewers for the job. If they ask you the same questions, this demonstrates a lack of coordination. "It would raise a red flag because the really good companies will have a good interview process in place. They share interview questions and collaborate to get the best candidate."


You're asked the wrong questions.

Too many personal questions and not enough about your skills raises one "huge red flag" about management, Wyatt says. "Right now it's a tough job market so candidates may look past something like that ... but it can be indicative of a deeper problem."


The company's values don't reflect yours.

Don't hesitate to grill the interviewer on the company's organizational culture, and to assess the responses carefully for warning signs, stresses Wyatt. "What might turn off one candidate may really entice another." This includes how employees interact with one another, and whether you can occasionally work from home.


Everyone paints a glowing picture.

Ironically, an interviewee also shouldn't hear the interviewer painting too rosy of a picture about the company. "If it sounds too good to be true," Wyatt stresses, "it probably is."


You see a lot of empty cubicles (and it's not lunch time).

Wyatt encourages interviewees to inquire about vacant workspace because it may spell budget woes. It can also indicate financial success. She recently explained to a curious interviewee that her company was actually opening another office due to a recent expansion.


You're denied access.

If the interviewer denies your benign requests to better understand the company, such as talking with employees, then it may give you the feeling there's something to hide. "The interviewer is supposed to sell you on the company."

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