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Interview red flags

Early career, its easy to think of job interviews as a sales pitch, where you’re the sales person trying to sell yourself to the company.

While that’s partially true, the company (and person who will be your manager) should also be trying to sell themselves to you, and why you should want to work there.

Over the years, I’ve started to notice a handful of red flags that make me walk away from interview processes early. They signal to me that a company will be a bad place to work after I’m hired.

Here’s an incomplete list of my red flags.

  • Technical interviews where: I can’t look things up, or must produced working code in an inappropriately short period of time, or am asked to do something that has no relation to the actual work I’d be doing in the role (for example, algorithm quizzes). These types of interviews don’t accurately measure what I’d do in the actual role, and thus are ill suited to evaluating my skills and abilities.
  • “We’re a fun workplace!” These types of workplaces use the allure of work being “fun” to overwork employees, pay them less, and keep them at the office longer.
  • “We’re like a family!” No, we’re not. We’re coworkers/employees, you’d fire us in a heartbeat to increase the stock price by a few pennies, and saying otherwise is emotionally manipulative bullshit.
  • Kitchen-sink job descriptions. You know, the ones where they throw every buzzword and new technology into it. They’re either looking for someone who can do two or three jobs for the price of one, or the person you’d be working for doesn’t understand the job (and wouldn’t be very fun to work for).
  • Evasive or dismissive answers. I look up companies on Glassdoor and Google before my interview. If I see any reports of racism or discrimination or other scandals, I ask about them in the interview. “Those were just a few disgruntled employees” is a very common response, and tells me that the company is not serious about addressing cultural problems. Sames goes for questions about accessibility, inclusion, and so on.
  • God Complex/Micromanagers. I do my best work in an environment of trust and mutual respect. You will often meet managers who either want to be heavily involved in everything, or have a high need for deference to their authority. Detecting it requires a bit more experience and subtly than some of the other items on this list. For example, I once had a recruiter tell me that a hiring manager, “Really likes to get a thank you note after interviewing people ::wink::.” Ok, cool! I’ll thank them after they hire me!

I’m sure there are some things I missed. What’s on your list?