As much as businesses use it to screen candidates, a job interview can tell applicants a lot about their potential employer too. It's a two-party game. However, most of us aren't as good at it as professional recruiters — they do it for a living and get to practice a whole lot more. So in order to successfully "compete" with them, we have to do our homework.
A recent Reddit thread, created by user u/BackgroundChapter970, can be a good place to start. It asked everyone on the platform "What is a red flag from an employer that people might not immediately recognize as a red flag?" Now, there are over 2,000 comments, many of which detail the warning signs jobseekers need to pay attention to.
#1Selling "work culture".. dude I just want to get paid, work reasonable hours and work with competent respectful colleagues. I don't care about Halloween parties and happy hour.
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#2Everybody is under the age of 35 who works there.
This means the job sucks.
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#3When you hear "We're like a family here", run and don't look back. The only "family" trait that'll come from that job is the dysfunction, gaslighting, and lack of accountability.
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#4You check out glassdoor and there are a bunch of overwhelmingly positive reviews from "anonymous current employees" that under cons list "no cons that I can think of!"
Even the best place to work in the world has SOME cons.
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#5Offering to pay you a lot less than market rate because you will "Learn so much" or "Will be working with a great team". My bank does not take IQ points as a mortgage payment.
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#6If you're interviewing in person and on-site... look at the cars in the parking lot. Look at the "nice ride" to "sh**box" ratio. If there's a bunch of sh**box, the place offers substandard wages.
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#7When an employee quits or gets fired from the job and the company doesn't hire anyone new to replace them.
It can be hard to tell as a red flag at first, but the temporary workload they added to your own over that was left over after the person left, slowly becomes your new permanent workload, without any changes to your pay or benefits to compensate for the additional tasks. The further out it goes without the position being filled, the larger and more obvious the red flag becomes.
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#8Here’s one I wish I hadn’t ignored.
I was hired as support staff at a preschool meaning I’d be in and out of every room through the day. I was being led around the school by one of the bosses. Certain classrooms she was chatting and joking but others she just said “this is TheBrontosaurus she’s the new aid.” Then move on.
Obviously you’re going to get along better with certain coworkers than others. But I quickly learned that the management played strong favorites with the staff. It had nothing to do with ability but usually mostly physical appearance. Thin/pretty teachers were treated far better.
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#9High turnover rate. Ask them how often the position is left open/filled. Oftentimes, if retention rates are only 1 year... run.
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#10Want to find the red flag fast? During your interview, when the employer asks if you have any questions, ask this: Can you tell me about a recent time one of your employees really excelled?
A good employer won't have any trouble celebrating their team. A c**p employer will struggle hard to answer.
...And it's a perfectly reasonable question.
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#11When low-level employees are asked to step in an fill the roles of high-level employees when they are on vacation/leave. At first this may seem like a great opportunity, where you get to prove you can do the big-kid work and sit at the adult's table, but unless that comes with a temporary raise or a bonus, you're just being asked to do $$$ work for $ money.
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#12Walking in and getting hired on the spot without a single question, especially as a young woman. It has happened to me a few times and it’s always when it’s a male interviewer.
And if they hire based on looks. I once went to a group interview and 3 of us showed up (all young women). The guy actually did ask a few questions. One woman had a business degree and she was a little bit overweight. Me and the other woman, who were both thin, didn’t have any higher education or any prior experience. At the end of the interview, he told me and the other thin girl that we were hired, and told the one with the business degree that he wouldn’t need her on the team. I said “no thank you”, walked out and never went back.
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#13Things like game machines, foosball, air hockey, beer, and/or hip hang-out spots at the job. They want and will expect you to spend every waking minute there.
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#14When you don’t get a review until you ask for a raise. Then, all of a sudden, you work is being questioned and you’re being berated.
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#15It's a "fast-paced environment" excellent for "self-starters".
Translation: A f**kton of work, with no documentation, no training, no support and surly co-workers, for about 1/3 of what you SHOULD be paid to do 1/3 the work.
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#16Regular mandatory overtime - in other words you're salary but after 60 hours per week you're not making a whole lot over minimum wage.
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#17If they focus on how you handle conflict resolution during the interview process.
I got asked what I would do about a "hypothetical" hostile workmate who was being awful to others. Got the job, turned out it was NOT hypothetical.
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#18If they claim to be a good place to work, especially if they have a purported third-party award for it, watch out.
If they claim to be a good place for women to work, specifically, be twice as careful.
It appears that many if not all of those "best place to work" awards are pay-to-play and purchased by the worst places to work.
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#19When management talks poorly about the other employees, it might make you feel included/special at first but guaranteed they’re going to be talking about you next.
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#20For women who are thinking about having a baby: If no one else at your workplace has babies/toddlers. It’s probably not a place that will be very understanding and accommodating to you after you come back from maternity leave. I didn’t realize this until it was too late.
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Outside of positions that are customer-facing, or involve a uniform/safety gear, a company that has a very specific dress code is sending a signal that they are a very rigid, bureaucratic organization. This will likely be reflected in many different aspects of working life.
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#22A new potential employer should be waiting for only you to arrive for your interview- if you are kept waiting in the same room as a bunch of other candidates leave. These people are rude and on a power trip. They get off on making people compete against each other and the workplace will be hostile and cutthroat.
#23They applaud employees who go the "extra mile" and encourage everyone else to do the same while providing zero tangible incentive. It's one thing to do your job well, another when you have to put in work off hours to meet targets.
#24If they ask if you've turned in your two weeks to your current employer during the interview process. Had two short jobs fresh out of college that did this and realized too late that they were waiting for me to be desperate before hiring me, because the pay was actually much lower than advertised and the hours were much longer.
#25When everyone seems to "wear many hats" and have many unrelated duties.
It just means they're trying to squeeze every drop of effort out of everyone instead of properly hiring for those positions.
#26The quality of office stationary and toilet paper starts to decline.
#27When during the interview they make you take a personality test.
#28When their selling point is "flexibility".
If their only, or even main focus is "flexibility", then that means there must be a *lot* more cons than there are pros.
#29This one is so common that’s it’s not really a red flag anymore but it’s predatory so I’ll post it: unlimited pto.
Sounds great right? Nope.
It’s usually accompanied by a culture that looks down on taking even a normal amount of time off and while it sounds like it benefits the employee, really it just makes cashing out unused vacation days one less hurdle to letting you go.
#30If they’ve never promoted people to a high level eg all high levels are external hires. Means the person can’t ever see new people evolve.
#31When a company tells you you're required to be 10-15 minutes early for your shift. In previous jobs that I've quit, any time I remind a supervisor its illegal to require that, they clam up. If they are not paying for that 15 minutes, you are not required to show up then. At least thats the case in Ontario anyway.
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#32When they say stuff like "we're definitely not a 9-to-5 place, we stay until the work is done," they mean there will be lots of overtime, possibly due to poor planning or overcommitment by leadership.
It could still be a good job, but negotiate for equity, not just a salary.
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#33When they ask you to sign a contract on the spot. They are desperate to fill this position for a reason.
#34“It's a calling” is usually a mask for toxic organizational behavior which prioritizes “culture” over actual quantifiable strategies.
#35Sporadic and slow responses during the interview period. It signals that: either they don't value the potential new employees' time, or are so disorganized that they can't even keep their own interviews lined up.
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#36"We work hard and we play hard."
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#37Introducing changes for the sake of change. Not only does it wastes time if the change just makes sth different, but usually it makes worse, but also is prompted by people who don't even know what you actually do.
If it ain't broken don't fix it, it applies a million percent in business. Innovate when you have to or know you can do it better, otherwise f***k off.
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#38They tell you they're anti union, or a union-free environment. I don't care how you feel about unions, but the employees should be telling you there's no reason to unionize, not the bosses.
#39Two sides of the same coin:
1. No proud photos of their products.
2. Motivational posters anywhere.
Good companies celebrate their products, services, and * all *of the employees who contribute to their success. And the employees are both well compensated for the work and self-motivated to do it.
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#40If the job description they advertise is vastly different then what they tell you it is at the interview. Alternately, if you interview with 2 or 3 people and they all have a different idea what the role is. This is a bad sign.
One thing I've learned to look out for is overall workplace happiness. If I walk through the workplace I take a close look at the people working there. If they look up and give a nod or smile or say hi, that's a good sign. If they ignore you or look at you but don't smile, that's probably an indicator of a dysfunctional workplace.
I actually worked for a company that took a downward trend over the years due to bad management. When I first started everyone in the office was friendly and nice. Over the years things got worse, the good people had all quit, the ones left didn't care about the job or company and were just treading water until they could quit. They just stuck to their desks and ignored everyone.
#41Id say having a single person in key departments with no overlap/assistants.
I find it means those companies are cheap and people without anyone to step in, have trouble when they need time off. Might mean too much on peoples plates, or little time/ability to cross train.
#42When you ask in the interview, what the culture is like, and everybody looks around to everybody else for the answer.
#43One thing I've learned to ask on-site or office-based employers: "what was your response to COVID-19, what were the immediate changes made to safety and work, and what has been the long-term legacy?"
This is a great way to find out a lot of information FAST.
Some obvious ones details emerge such as work from home flexibility, reasonable accommodations, and technology solutions; but the meat of the conversation is in the response to the question itself along with what they learned and what was implemented long-term. Do they have a new hybrid work structure? Is "culture" weekly team video check-ins and celebrations of success? Have they gone full "work where you want"? Oooor how did they handle a full-staff return to office?
If like me you embrace the candor and don't mind probing for information, you'll learn a lot more about how the company operates than just the software they used to telecommunicate in 2020+. Sometimes they're put on their back foot because of the frankness, sometimes they give a BS response, and still other times you enter into an honest conversation about what went well and what didn't.
Bonus points if you keep a stone face the whole time.
After all, interviews are two-way. Figure out if they're worth your time.
#44“Projected Salary based on commission bonuses plus base pay”
In other words 10-15k less than what was advertised.
#45Open Creative = we have no resources but you can burn yourself out trying to make things happen.
#46When they’ve had 3 CEO’s in the last 4 yrs.
#47The staff is mostly under 20. Speaking from experience: chain restaurants. There’s a reason adults aren’t working there and it’s not bc of the stigma. It’s because they aren’t paying anything close to a living wage and have sparse opportunities to move up.
#48When you sign up for one job and they try giving you a different one during the interview.
Happened to me when I tried to sign up as a host for olive garden, instead, I was stuck bussing tables
#49"This generation is difficult to manage." I applied for a management role at a bakery and they said this sentence and similar complaints about young staff members throughout the interview. It sounded to me like they just didn't respect the needs of their younger staff members. I just asked for an absurd amount of money to give the next guy haggling power and I left.
#50For startups: huge valuation during the last funding round, especially if there’s only one investor. It means that nobody else will invest in them unless they have a ‘down round’ and drop their valuation.
#51When they have nothing for you to actually do when you first start out. Prepare yourself for the worst management of your life that are all ideas with no actual planning involved.
#52For me, it was rushing the interview process. I was told upfront that there would be two rounds of interviews. After the first round, I was immediately offered the job. It felt odd to me at the time that they were so eager to hire me, especially given my lack of experience in the new industry I was applying for. After the first round, there were more questions I wanted to ask in the second round, but then I never got the chance. I took the job and it ended up being the worst I ever had by a mile. I always wondered if I’d been able to ask more follow-up questions in a second round if I’d have seen the red flags.
#53"We have a strong pipeline of projects coming up" means they have nothing going on and hope to win something or lay people off.
#54Management who are willing to risk it and cut corners.
Had an interview with a company. The guy interviewing me told me that he would be my boss if I got the job. He likes his teams to be a strong and cohesive group and that we would all have an input as he values his team.
Maybe three questions later he asks me: "if you had an unstable and unstable load that I told you has to be loaded this minute. You would do it." Me, "No, if it is unsafe and could potentially kill someone, I would not allow it out. Not until the problem is sorted (had a boss pull this one years before), i would tell him of the issue and try to get it sorted" him "and I tell you it must be loaded as is", me "Then it wont get loaded and i would bring it to Health and safety". He immediately told me how I was not the right type of person for that company.
A large international company, willing to promote that individual. I consider myself lucky to have not been even offered the job. Saved me turning it down.
#55If the interviewer is negative and nitpicky but hires you anyway, either decline the offer or, at the very least, keep looking for something better if you absolutely need the income right now.
#56"We run with a lean team" that just means you will do the work of 2.5 FTE.
#57To the unexperienced, pay doesn't come up until the very end of the hiring process and it's also not open to negotiation.
Not handing out work phones.
#58If the manager brags about his accomplishments. Worked in radio and the guy I interviewed with made the conversation all about himself. Found out within the first week everyone hated him and he was a narcissistic d**k.
#59If you get the job, and during orientation they sound like they're trying to sell you the company (like a salesman and a car). It tells me they're trying to convince you AND themselves.
#60Slowly normalizing working outside of regular hours.
#61Being expected to stay after work to socialize. My Father has struck this at a couple of interviews. One company pretty much said it was compulsory to stay and drink with everyone, and he had an interview with a company owner who pretty much sounded like he just wanted a buddy to hang around with after work (wouldn't even tell my Father the actual hours of the job and changed the subject when they were brought up).
#62This is probably going to be more applicable to certain white collar fields like law and consulting. And it may seem obvious here, but to someone in their early ‘20s looking to make it, it very often isn’t.
The greater the amenities, the more likely it is your life will be hell.
I decided not to apply to work at a certain law firm when I learned their local office had showers on every floor. “Huh, that’s funny. I usually just shower at home or the gym. Why would they need that? Unless…”
Of course, not having a coffeemaker can also be a pretty big red flag. I say *can*, because I once worked in such a place, but it was municipal government. Not bad; just poor :(
#63Emphasis on granting stock options over real benefits in a private company.
#64Being blasé about 15 minutes early or over here and there. This is often played off as work ethics and attitude. You can bet it won't be 'ok' if you dipped your fingers into the till for $10, it is also not ok if they dip into your paycheque.
#65Testing out “how high you will jump” right off the bat. For example asking you to work doubles right away, do tasks other people don’t want to do, etc.
#66They won't let you talk to current or former employees before taking the job.
#67If they're willing to hire you without interviewing you, or with very minimal interview, don't take the job. They're probably a shady company.
#68They never actually answer questions.
#69"Our philosophy is we don't say no the the kids" was a program interviewed for. The program worked with high schoolers. The director tried to say it playfully as a joke to show that the students mean a lot to them.
All that told me was im expected to have no boundaries. I didn't continue my interview with them for the next rounds.
Found out half their team quit and they had people working 2 jobs at once, some not even related to their role and no extra pay.