Preparing for a job interview can be daunting. If you want to impress that prospective employer, you’ve got some homework to do: fully research the company, prepare strong answers to anticipated questions, even choose the right clothes. But in all of your eagerness to impress your interviewer, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re on another important mission during that interview: assessing how they impress you.
Nobody – and no company – is perfect. But if you see any of these six warning signs during an interview, you need to seriously consider crossing this employer off your list.
1. The work environment is negative
If your interview doesn’t take place where you’ll be working, be sure you visit that place before saying yes. When you arrive, pay close attention to how you feel – and why. Feelings of anxiety might be due to the fact that you’re trying to land a job. But an atmosphere of negativity, hostility or “Debbie Downer” vibes may stem from the company itself and the people who work there. Note the attitudes, expressions, and interactions of the people you see. Are people happy to be there? And pay attention to the physical surroundings themselves. Is it clean, bright, welcoming? If you’re answering no, remember that if they offer you the job. Do you want to spend eight hours a day in an environment you find depressing?
2. Interactions with you are disrespectful
This the courtship phase, not the marriage. If you’re treated poorly now, it will only get worse later. From the moment you’ve made first contact, you should expect to be treated with courtesy and professionalism. If your interviewer is late, they may have a great reason. But it’s only excusable if they share that reason with you and apologize for making you wait. Do they disrupt your interview for non-urgent interruptions, including phone calls, texts or emails? You invested time, energy and possibly money to prepare for this interview. But if you receive shabby treatment, cut your losses and cross them off your list.
3. The interviewer is unprepared to answer your questions
Your new employer should know the basics of the job they’re asking you to consider. They should be able to provide a quick, direct answer to questions regarding the basic job responsibilities, the reporting hierarchy, the pay range, how you would be onboarded, mentored and/or managed along the way, and how your success in the job would be measured over the first year. If they can’t – and especially if they wave away these questions as unanswerable, this is likely not a boss place prepared to foster your career and success.
4. The interviewer disparages previous (or present) employees
You already know how bad you would look during an interview if you droned on with negatives about your last workplace. Hold the interviewer to the same standards. Of course, it’s possible that the previous incumbent was incompetent, disliked, or both. But when you ask why the job is open (and you should ask that question), listen for an answer that demonstrates clarity and honesty – but also shows you an employer who shows basic respect for the dignity of every person they employ. You don’t want to work in a place where your boss belittles you behind your back.
5. You’re offered the job before you leave the interview
Before you leap out of your chair to say yes, take a step back and ask yourself why a potential employer would make such a move. No matter how well you think the rest of the interview has gone – or matter how big a rock star you are – if the interviewer tries to convince you to take the job during a first interview, you should question why and, above all else, do NOT say yes (or no). Say you’re flattered and that you need some time to consider it. If that makes them rescind the offer, you already know you don’t belong there.
6. You just don’t see yourself getting along with the people
Relationships matter, especially where you’ll be investing so much of your time, effort and career hopes. If you just don’t feel right about the quality of interactions you’re having, try to find compatibility by digging in with deeper questions about work style and communications on the job. But at the end of the day, you need to trust your gut. If you strongly dislike the manager after a few interactions, you may want to pass on the job.
The next time you land an interview with a prospective employer, go ahead and do everything in your power to wow them. But keep in mind: they need to impress you, too.