Red Flags on Job Interviews!

Here’s some of the real world corporate office “bite-you-in the-behind stuff” no one really talks about in college or MBA school but you must master if you want to succeed at the real version of  the “Corporate Office Game”.

Although the unemployment rate is low, many people are still looking for jobs. Or perhaps better jobs that match their skillset and education level. I am talking about the college-educated professional with 10 to 30 years of corporate experience who is underpaid or underemployed. Or even the downsized senior executive who must take a low-level job to feed the family. Those stories are still out there in the news but not as much as the “low unemployment rate number” that the media screams about.

Despite how desperate you may be for a job, you may want to consider whether or not the job, the company, and your potential boss is worth it. There are warning signs for the crappy jobs, companies, and even bosses. Of course, you may be desperate to take any job because you need to feed your family. I get that. Do what you have to.

But, if you are in a position where you have some time and flexibility and option of choosing a good job over a crappy one, then here are a few things you need to pick up on and watch for:

  1. If HR can’t seem to write a good job description. If you click on the link for a manager role and somehow you end up with the job description of a secretary or low-level administrator: Red Flag!
  2. If you walk into the office to interview for one job and then somehow interview for a second job. Or if you get hired for one job and then when you start on the first day you are offered a different job: Red Flag!
  3. If you are meeting with HR and they mention that they are still working on  establishing themselves as a “perferred place to work” : Red Flag! Folks, this is a billion dollar company that moved their headquarters to a growing, hip, top 20 city, over 3 years ago with over 100 people moving into the city every day. Red Flag!
  4. When your potential boss tells you that they recently took over this portion of the department and they still do not know a lot about your potential role and what you’ll be doing. Red Flag!
  5. The person who was previously in the job is leaving, has left, or will leave soon. If the person has been in the position for 10+ years, working from home remotely for almost 3 years, but then says that the position must be relocated to the new headquarters, then Red Flag!
  6. In a subsequent interview with your potential boss, you are asked ridiculous once in a lifetime questions: Red Flag!
  7. If your potential boss is either threatened by you or whatever, enough that he/she wants to exert dominance over you in a situation by making you feel stupid in an interview: Red Flag!
  8. If the potential boss remarks that you’ve been “out of the game for a few years”: Red Flag! The boss acts like they are doing you a favor to hire you although you may have been working in another position or even getting another college degree.
  9. When it’s a corporate office, typically an “8 to 5” job, but the boss wants you available to travel for training or other purposes, even though the job description says  “0% travel”. Red Flag! They may be fishing to find out if you have kids or other obligations where you may not be at their disposal or you may call in to work. 
  10. If the words “The duties of this job may change at any time without prior notice” are big and bold: Red Flag!   This is basic legalese so bosses and companies can get rid of you for non-performance. They can add new tasks without training you, setting you up for failure on purpose.
  11.  Three days into the job, your boss asks if you’ve been clocking in and you say no. You are really confused because you thought this was a salary position and probably would not have considered an hourly job. Of course HR didn’t mention that during in-processing and you quickly figure out that the hourly wage was more than the annual salary. Beware because you probably won’t be eligibile for the company bonus at the end of the year like they told you. Red Flag!
  12. If there aren’t any women in the department or if they are ONLY women in the department. Obviously this depends on the job and field, but for a corporate office setting with 1,000 employees, there should be diversity. No women may mean the old boy’s club and all women may mean that bullying from high school is about to rear its ugly head. (These, of course, are only examples that I have experienced and may not be true everywhere). Red Flag!
  13. When the potential boss mentions that there is growth opportunity to learn more about the details of the industry and  take on more responsibility, then this is a potential Red Flag for giving you more work without increasing your pay.
  14. The potential boss says that after several years in the job, you can work up to the next level job. The next level being a job role that you held 10 YEARS AGO and mastered at a company larger and more profitable that theirs! Red Flag!

Why are some of these red flags? Well, as you get older and start to experience the realities of corporate life and the game, you quickly realize that some people aren’t as noble to serve the best interests of the company as others. Or they are serving the best interests of the company, the company just happens not to be as ethical as you. Some people are threatened about losing their jobs.

Let’s look a little more on the brighter side. Sometimes people make mistakes. Of course  business needs change so one idea listed above may not necessarily be a red flag. But if you’re checking the box on 4 or 5 of them during the job interview, then think deeply and ask more follow up questions with HR or your potential boss.

And remember that no job is perfect. No company is perfect. No person is perfect. You have to work to support yourself and your family. But you are working for other people who have other goals, ambitions, and ideas too. You are working at a company that has its own set of politics and rules. Don’t let these red flags deter you, but rather prepare you for the possibilities of the “Corporate Office Game” so that you can be a player and not the pawn.


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