10 Red Flags That the Company You’re Interviewing With Is Toxic

10 Red Flags the Company You're Interviewing With Is Toxic

Although I am not currently in the interviewing hot seat, recently I have had a strange reintroduction and am seeing just how much corporate America has changed in a post-pandemic world. As I have been helping my younger brother prepare and navigate the job search, I’m seeing that it is much more difficult than it used to be. And, many promising opportunities turn out to be nothing more than false leads and empty promises. In some cases, this is because the company creates an unpleasant or hostile work environment. If you notice any of these signs in the early stages, here are 10 red flags that the company you’re interviewing with is toxic.

10 Red Flags That the Company You’re Interviewing With Is Toxic

At some point in our professional careers, we have all had to deal with toxic environments or compromise personal wants to meet the demands of our job. However, most of us do our best to eliminate these negative behaviors from our lives. Since we spend a good portion of our lives at work, we want to find a place with a good culture. So if you see any of these red flags, you may want to consider accepting a position with the company.

1. The job description is too general or vague.

The first sign that things are not as they seem is when the job description doesn’t include many details. Quality postings should have a list of the required skills, responsibilities, and compensation for the position. Although you won’t learn everything, it should provide a decent amount of information so you have a general idea of what the job entails before the interview. If descriptions are vague and they speak in generalities, it could indicate that there is trouble ahead.

2. The management seems absent or unavailable.

Micromanagement is never a good approach to doing business. However, leaders should be present and available to answer questions, give direction, and handle situations when they arise. If you notice that the supervisors are not present or difficult to find during the interview process, it’s a sign there is a huge disconnect with the day-to-day operations of the place. More than likely, this dynamic leads to discontent among the employees and ineffective management of the business as a whole.

3. You experience several communication issues.

Good communication is crucial to building strong relationships, including professional ones. Quick and concise responses are signs of a healthy relationship. However, missed calls and meetings, long waiting times, and evasive answers indicate a bigger problem. Operating under the guise of confusion could be an attempt to hide the dysfunction of the corporate hierarchy. If the company is not communicating clearly and effectively from the get-go, it’s a good sign for you to start looking for better opportunities.

4. They ask inappropriate or illegal questions.

Although people are becoming better informed about workers’ rights, there is always more to learn. As an employee, knowledge of your rights is a powerful bargaining tool. Not only does it pay to know your value, but it also helps establish clear boundaries between your personal and professional life. Therefore, it’s illegal to ask certain questions that are invasive, personal, or could lead to discrimination. Remember, you are entitled to your private life. So if they are asking these types of questions, it is one of the biggest red flags that the company culture is toxic.

5. They refer to a “family” environment.

Anytime your interviewer refers to a “family” atmosphere, your spidey senses should be tingling. Although it may have once put people at ease and made them feel accepted as part of the team, it means something entirely different in the modern world. Now, many workers take it as a sign that the company will use the relationship to create obligation and take advantage of you. While you may enjoy spending time with colleagues, work is not your home and the team isn’t your family. This reference usually indicates a less-than-ideal working environment.

6. There is a conflict of values.

Most of us work to pay the bills and earn a steady paycheck. But, you should have some level of pride in what you do. We aren’t all out there trying to change the world, but it’s important to find some satisfaction in your work. And a big part of this means participating in the company mission and sharing the same values. However, if you find yourself at odds with a company’s values even during the interview process, chances are it will only get worse over time.

7. You notice a lack of enthusiasm.

It’s rare to find people who love their jobs, but you shouldn’t hate it either. So if you walk into an office with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm, you should be asking yourself why. The general vibe and energy of the workplace are a good indication of the environment they are trying to cultivate.

Pay attention to how they interact with each other. Are they engaged? Do they look miserable? Are they avoiding each other? If it seems like they are counting down the minutes remaining on their shift, you may want to think about high-tailing it out of the interview.

8. They speak badly of their coworkers.

Another of the biggest red flags that a company is toxic is if they speak badly about their coworkers. While it’s normal to have some complaints about the job, it’s unprofessional to discuss it in the workplace. And if they freely badmouth or gossip about their colleagues, it’s probably only the tip of the iceberg. If they are willing to talk about things like this with interviewees, imagine how much worse it would be if you were an employee. That’s why it’s a good sign that you should steer clear.

9. The interview is inexplicably short.

A company that is looking for serious employees should take time to get to know who they are hiring. This includes in-depth questions about your experience and expectations as well as the opportunity for you to ask questions about the company and position you are applying for. A smart interviewer wants to ensure new employees will be a good fit.

However, it’s a red alert if they are rushing through the interview or making an offer right away. It usually means they are desperate because they have high turnover or staffing issues. Both issues lead to a greater workload for those employees who stick around.

10. You leave with unanswered questions.

With any position, don’t expect to have all your questions answered in the first interview. Certain things can only be learned in time. However, you should leave with a good understanding of what the job entails, the compensation you will receive, and the corporate structure. An interview is intended to be a genuine conversation between a potential employer and an employee. So if you walk away with more questions or feel like you never receive a direct answer, then it’s likely there are hiding something.

Finding the Right Environment

Personally speaking, I have been in every one of these situations during my professional career. Some of the worst working environments had several of these red flags from day one. However, experience is always the best teacher. The best advice I can offer anyone going through the job search process is this: trust your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right or you notice similar patterns to workplaces where you have previously encountered these behaviors, save yourself.  Don’t waste your time and energy chasing down opportunities that could land you in a toxic environment.

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Posted in: Career and Work

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