Sometimes, job interviews go well… but something just doesn’t feel right. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you’re not sure you want to accept an offer from this employer if it comes your way. If this is you, you probably missed some common interviewing red flags for tech jobs.
The interview process for tech jobs can be quite drawn out, which gives you plenty of time to pay attention to all aspects of the job and company. False flags exist. An eager recruiter isn’t necessarily a red flag; they might just be trying to move you into the interview room as fast as possible so the role gets filled (they need to meet their metrics, after all).
But over-enthusiasm can also be indicative of a company with high turnover, which is a huge problem. Even if the job pays well, you may not want to waste your time on a six-month gig.
With all that in mind, here are some real red flags to watch for:
Whether via phone, video, or in-person, pay attention to the person (or people) interviewing you. Are they engaged in the discussion? Do they show interest in you and your skillset?
If the person interviewing you isn’t engaged in the conversation, it’s a sign they’re not viewing you as a potential long-term hire. They might only want to hire you to handle whatever short-term goal they have, for instance. It could also be a sign that the company culture is difficult or toxic, especially if the interviewer is aloof or asks questions that don’t really reflect your skills or background.
If you’re being interviewed by a panel, identify who is and isn’t interested in the conversation. Also, take the time to identify your potential future manager. If two of five interviewers are engaged and excited, will you be working with/for one or both of them? That could prove key to your decision over whether to take the job.
Sometimes, companies simply have people sit in on interviews so a consensus can be reached; if you won’t really interact with someone who isn’t excited to be talking to you, don’t worry too much. But if your future manager seems to be having trouble staying awake, that’s a big warning sign.
A Weird Walk to the Interview Room
Did the person escorting you to the interview room show you around? Were staff glaring at you as you walked through the building? Was the place a gray cubicle farm that made you want to set your jacket on fire as a distraction while you ran from the building screaming?
Pay attention to small things as you enter the building for an on-site interview. Hard looks from staff can tell you a lot about company culture. If people at their desks look worn down, it’s a sign they’re overworked (and you will be, too).
Most times, the people you walk past won’t know who you are or why you’re there, which makes their body language all the more telling. If you’re just some random person to them, why are they so aggressive or dismissive? It’s not welcoming. Similarly, how staff behave at their desks is the clearest look you’ll have at what it’s like to actually work at the company. Pay attention.
You Win at Buzzword Bingo!
During the interview, did you hear something like this?:
We need a self-starter who can really get in there and be a rockstar. We don’t want to micro-manage you, and we need someone who pushes hard to see results.
Yeah, so, that’s all corporate BS for “you won’t have any guidance, we’re not sure what we really need, and we expect you to meet impossible deadlines.” Don’t let your ego get the best of you: You may think you’re awesome, and the allure of not being micro-managed is exciting, but flashy phrasing suggests substantial disconnect. At best, they don’t really understand what you actually do; at worst, they’re trying to find someone to use and abuse before that person gets fed up and leaves.
Red Flags During Interview Homework
By ‘interview homework,’ we don’t mean take-home coding tests; that’s a totally different kind of homework. We’re talking about homework on the company and those interviewing you.
LinkedIn is ubiquitous, and everyone feels compelled to update their professional online presence to reflect their work history. Poke around the site and find people you interviewed with. How long have they worked at the company?
Does the firm have a blog explaining its culture, like Stripe? Are they posting technical blogs or think-pieces on Medium?
Glassdoor is not the most grounded ranking system because many who leave reviews are likely disgruntled, but a high ranking at least tells you many are happy with the company and enjoy working there.
If you’re going to run into red flags, it’s during this homework stage, so prepare accordingly.
No You’re Interviewing for Culture!
You should walk into an interview with questions ready. If you know what you’ll be working on, you should absolutely ask questions about the project. Even if you don’t, interview your interviewers to decipher the company’s true culture.
Ask what a normal work day and week are like. Ask how often you may be expected to work long days/weeks to meet a deadline. Are there company “hackathons” you’ll be expected to work tirelessly through? How often do people take time off?
Ask probing questions and gauge the responses. If you ask what a normal week is like and how often people take vacations, and your interviewer says something glib like, “We are a goal-oriented team, and we take vacations as project timelines allow,” take a moment to consider that statement. If a manager or team lead can’t tell you their staff have a solid work-life balance, is the job worth it? Studies show a solid work-life balance is critical for your well-being and happiness, so don’t overlook something like that.
Remember: You’re Always in Charge
We’re only providing guidance; your instincts are the truest barometer of whether a job is worth pursuing. If you think working 70-hour weeks with little time off is worth it so you can have a well-known company on your CV, that’s your choice. Just know it’ll likely burn you out, and it’s not always a sure bet the flashy company name can outshine a short-term stay when your next employer looks at your application materials.
The bottom line is, if you don’t think you’ll like the job, you probably won’t. Whatever red flags you notice, don’t dismiss them for a paycheck.