Have you ever had a job that started out promising but went pear-shaped just a few months after your start date? It’s often possible to trace the early signs of trouble all the way back to the interview.
Before you find yourself in a role that’s a whole lot different from the one you applied for, try these tips to cut through interview spin. Conduct your own due diligence on any prospective employer and watch out for these recruitment red flags.
- Time is money. Managers are busy, but respectful employers know that your time is valuable, too. A good recruiter should provide you with clear instructions about the time, date and venue of your interview – and reasonable notice if a change must be made. The company’s attitudes to accessibility and inclusivity are also observable at the planning and arrival stage of your interview. Look out for adequate male and female bathrooms, for example, provisions for wheelchair access and parking availability.
- The right person for the job. Just as you want to present yourself as the right person for the job, your recruiter should make the right people available to you for answering questions. If you will be a PA to the Director, ask to meet the Director; if you’ll be managing a complex project, you need to meet the key personnel who can outline the nature of the project. If you’re met by a dithering assistant who’s hazy on the details, it’s time to rethink your next steps.
- I don’t mean to be rude, but… You should not have to answer inappropriate or irrelevant questions at interview. If your recruiter asks whether you are keen to start a family, whether you are religious or what your star sign might be, a red flag should go off. At the same time, you are well within your rights to ask about the company’s approach to work-life balance. For example, do they offer flexible hours, onsite childcare or health incentives?
Companies are increasingly aware that supporting staff in their physical and mental wellbeing leads to greater retention and productivity. A positive response to questions like these during the interview is a good indicator of a supportive, progressive work culture.
- Mind your language. A job description can be a little like a real estate ad; it pays to read between the lines. If they need someone ‘flexible’ you might end up pulling 20 hour shifts. When they ask for a ‘good communicator’, you might find yourself dealing with tricky clients or customers. Don’t be afraid to ask a potential employer to clarify this terminology. If they are genuine about matching skills to the job at hand, they’ll be happy to explain the role in more detail.
- Forewarned is forearmed. Researching the role you’re applying for allows you to present more confidently at interview. But a fulfilling professional life is about more than the position description.
If former staff flag any areas of the company culture you find particularly exciting or concerning, you’ll be ready to raise those with your interviewer.
Remember that a job interview is a two way street. Due diligence at the earliest stage benefits both you and your employer. Whilst you may be keen to secure the role, it’s also important to ask the right questions to ensure it’s a role you’ll be happy to perform well in for the long term.