“This job isn’t what they told me it was going to be!”

“This job isn’t what they told me it was going to be!”


Even when both parties try their best, hiring can go wrong. There are the obvious bad start signs, like when the interviewer is late or takes phone calls or is using a mobile device while talking to you. But there are other things that happen or don’t happen in the interview process that contribute to unsuccessful outcomes.

Candidates go into interviews expecting the employer has done their homework. They’ll know the job, what they expect from the job and its value to the organization. They’ll know what it will take to succeed in the job and in their company. With all that insight, they’ve developed critical selection factors, have a good position description, the right ‘tests’ and great interview questions. All the right people have been prepped and will be involved in the process so you learn what you need to about the job and they learn from you whether you are a good fit.

It might make sense to expect these things but too many times those things have not been done and you aren’t dealing with reality.

I’ve mentioned the usual (interviewing)suspects above. Here’s my 7 Red Flags. Though written with the candidate in mind, interviewers will find clues for how they can up their game and better prepare, too.

Red Flag 1   There’s no job description shared before or at the interview; you’re operating off an ad or posting. How can you have an intelligent conversation without that basic? It’s ok to ask for it before meeting or even at the interview. If you don’t get it before the interview or find what they give you isn’t much more than an ad, that’s not good. How do they know they need the job? What if it was held a long time by someone else and it’s changed and they’re going from memory? What are they using to base their compensation for it on? Start asking questions to find this stuff out. I tell people to map out what they understand as they interview, then show the interviewer what you’ve mapped out to yourself and engage them with it. “Is this right?” Find out who it reports to, what other positions it interacts with regularly, what positions it supervises. How does the work get done (“Is this an automated system? What software is used and what kind of reports are generated?”). Be sure to know how long the previous person was there or if this is new. If new – why? What are expectations? If the other person was there forever, how has the job changed during that time?

Red Flag 2 No one is working from written questions.  At the interview you’re asked random, out of context questions not obviously related to the position; they actually seem to be made up on the spot or like they came from an article someone read on good questions to ask at an interview.

A good interview is almost like a deposition. The questions should be developed and asked in a progressive manner so to surface specific evidence of competence and experience in key job requisites. Before you interview, be sure you have developed your questions and watch out for assumptions you might be making. Don’t assume. Ask. Oh – and please never answer the question, “have you been to our website?” with a No!

Red Flag 3 Most of the questions can be answered by ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and there is no follow up to your ‘yes’ answers for specifics of how, when, where you might have done a certain something. Both parties are making big assumptions when questions are of the Yes or No variety. If you are in an interview made up of yes/no questions, even if you say Yes to everything, you don’t know if your Yes is sufficient for what’s required. ( “Have you ever supervised before?” needs more info than a Yes). Don’t either of you let it drop at yes or no. Always follow up with an example ( or request for one) offered in evidence of the Yes. This should prompt more discussion so you can share more about your relevant experience. And don’t be surprised if the interviewer suddenly is paying more attention and then finds your knowledge or experience in that area is not up to the level they need. But wouldn’t you rather know that so you don’t accept a job you aren’t qualified for? (c’mon!)

Red Flag 4 This is a variation on #3. The interviewer notes that you have done something before, verbalizes ‘great’ and doesn’t explore any of that to be sure we are talking apples and apples. Availability, quality and amount of human, financial, technological resources, well established policies and procedures, sound communications and feedback are huge to performance success and they differ between companies. You can’t cut and paste this stuff. Just because you could do it ‘there’ doesn’t mean you can do it ‘here’. Ask questions about what ‘here’ offers in those areas.

Red Flag 5 Additional people (internal customers this job interacts with, or supports) in the interview don’t seem, based on body English and questions asked, to have been given much notice about the interview and/or aren’t all that familiar with the job to be of much help. Further, their intros don’t come with an explanation of why they are there (how does this job interact with them, etc?) We often spend more time with others than with our boss and others have important insight into a good selection. Meeting with and soliciting input from internal customers is an important and positive preparatory step for the hiring manager to include in their hiring process. You can learn about whether this is really a ‘team oriented’ or ‘collaborative’ culture right at the interview by who is there, how well they work together and by seeing that they have been given time to prepare well. Right?

Red Flag 6 No one is taking notes! What do they remember days later, after many interviews have been conducted? That goes for you, too.

Red Flag 7 The interviewer spends 90% of the time telling, mostly about the company- not the job. Suddenly you’re told there’s a few minutes left and you’re asked if you have any questions. If you have them, time is up before you get to ask them all.

Nobody wants to accept an offer of a job that turns out to be something they weren’t expecting or can’t do and companies don’t want to make hiring mistakes either. The problem is neither side actually has a lot of experience interviewing. The company often is in a hurry to fill a position and candidates often don’t challenge for fear they might offend or maybe they will find out they don’t really want that job. (“But the pay and benies are so great there !”)

Like I said, there are hints here for interviewers which will eliminate red flags. For interviewees, remember that interviewers aren’t all pros. Don’t join the “not what they said” chorus. If any of these red flags pop up, work through them til you know this is something you really would want and could do.

Good luck to all.

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