Answering job interview questions is important, but so is paying attention to how the employer presents itself. No one wants to work for a problematic employer. It can easily happen that the job interview is pleasant, the people are cordial, and the company seems to be bursting with positivity and openness on its website and social media.
But in fact, at work it turns out that the management of workers is strict and very rigid, the employer counts every minute that the worker does not spend at his workplace, interpersonal relations are very tense and it is necessary to work “voluntarily” overtime to get the job done or to keep it.
In such cases, the employee regrets getting hired and starts looking for a new job. At the same time, it is possible that by accepting an unsuitable job, the person missed better offers, and once the short work experience has ended, it is a sensitive issue in the future job search. And it is not in the employer’s interest to hire a person who will not stay at the workplace because then they have to repeat the selection process over and over again.
Below are examples of employer red flags.
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High employee turnover
The biggest employer red flag is the high turnover rate. It is no longer necessary to have job interview questions about this since it will be obvious from other indicators. For example, the employer must constantly repeat advertisements for the same vacancy, which is easy to confirm with a simple history search.
Another slightly more subtle indicator is (if possible) to look at the profiles of current and current employees on LinkedIn. If many people worked there for only a few months, then it is an employer where the working conditions are intolerable.
Key job interview questions: inconsistency between values and behaviour
Due to the pressures of the labor market, most employers today try to emphasize their values and organizational culture. Almost every workplace points out that it has an open and friendly atmosphere, benefits are listed, and company pages are dominated by pictures of smiling and cheerful employees. Such information is not necessarily accurate and it may be just an image created by the marketing department to promote the company’s brand and attract as many better candidates as possible.
Of course, it is very difficult to assess only based on questions at a job interview whether the company really has the conditions that the company is publicly proud of. It is not even possible to directly ask questions about it, but it is possible to recognize some signs.
For example, candidates are often advised to pay attention to how employees address each other, i.e. whether they do so formally or informally. It is unlikely that someone in a friendly atmosphere is addressed by their full name or by Mr. and Mrs.
Another trick is to pay attention to how easy it is to borrow office equipment or offices. Companies where job interviews can be done in the superior’s office even if they are not present probably indicate that the workplace is not overly rigid, but if the selection process is strictly organized in a specific office, then it is futile to expect a flexible atmosphere at the workplace.
The third thing to notice is how easy it is to get information about the workplace. If the people who lead the selection can easily answer questions about the workplace or quickly find out the correct information, then there is probably a transparent way of communicating in the work organization. Otherwise, it’s probably a work environment where everyone sticks to their work.
Key job interview questions: withholding information
As our previous guides have already mentioned, it is also important to ask questions during a job interview so that the candidate shows that they are interested in the job. However, the questions should not be only asked to show interest but also to find out key information about the organizational culture.
It is very good to ask questions about which are mandatory and which are optional activities at the workplace, how communication with management is structured, what are the rules on overtime and what are the dress codes.
Much more important than the content of the answers to the questions at the job interview is whether the candidate gets them at all. If recruitment specialists and managers avoid giving a concrete answer, they may be aware of bad conditions in the company and want to hide them from potential employees. Only in very large companies or employment agencies can you expect that the person in charge of the selection cannot immediately answer such questions.
Hiding the reason why the position is open, the company’s plans for the future, or the organizational structure of the department can also be a bad sign about company management.
Key job interview questions: lack of clear criteria
Closely related to the hiding of information is the problem of a lack of clear criteria for evaluating employee performance. This is not necessarily about hiding the criteria but about their non-existence. Any job seeker has already noticed that some job postings describe job conditions in detail, while other postings only provide general information. For candidates not to depend only on the text of the vacancy, they must ask questions at the job interview about how their work performance will be evaluated.
In the absence of clear evaluation criteria, there are several problems. One of them is, for example, the impossibility of achieving promised bonuses or additional work incentives. Another problem is that without clear criteria for evaluation, the employer can constantly change the workplace responsibilities.
Thus, a person who is employed as an administrative assistant can perform the duties of an accountant, kitchen worker, personal assistant, and secretary. One should be very careful when the job title states the phrase “other responsibilities as assigned.”
Loopholes in the job contract
Concerning hiding and lack of information during the selection process, an alarming sign can also be a vague job contract. The exact content of the work contract is sometimes hidden until the very moment when it needs to be signed, and many people are under too much pressure at the time to carefully study it. We have already written about what to pay attention to when signing a work contract, but it is worth repeating.
It is necessary to pay close attention to the amount of the salary, especially whether the gross and net amounts correspond to what was said when asking questions at the job interview. Some employers like to be vague about what is a gross amount and what is a net amount. Vaguely defining or not defining variable compensations such as bonuses can be especially disastrous, and mandatory contributions such as for working from home can be overlooked. The contract should also contain clear information about mandatory working hours, the workplace itself, the exact start of employment, and working days of leave.
A warning sign can be administrative ambiguities in the contract, such as specifying a different employer from the one for whom the worker will actually work or signing by a person who is not authorized to conclude the contract.
In general, the most common problem that workers will encounter is that the contract contains different conditions than those mentioned in the job interview. Often, the number of days off or working hours differ from those promised, with the hint that they can be agreed upon with the employer later. An employer who is not prepared to address this immediately is probably not honest or trustworthy.
Key job interview questions about the probationary period
Job candidates are often hesitant to ask questions about the initial or trial period of work, which opens up the possibility of unpleasant surprises at the beginning of the job. It is not a good sign if the employer does not know how to explain exactly where the worker will work, with whom, and who will be their superior. It is especially bad if no mentor is provided, but the new employee is expected to manage everything on his own.
When asking questions at a job interview, you should therefore definitely find out what the first working day or week will look like. If you can’t get that information then it’s not a good sign, even if it’s a vacancy that didn’t exist before. The hiring of workers must be approached in a planned way, and not done just because they might be useful.
In organizations where there is an existing workplace, the lack of planning for the start of work probably means that the superiors do not know what the people in that workplace are doing, the work duties are broad and constantly changing, or the work is unorganized. The ideal feedback is that the newly hired person will have a mentor, if not an organized onboarding process.
One of the best things to check before asking a job interview question is how the organization is run. At the same time, you should especially pay attention to whether the company’s managers often change. This requires a little research, such as studying professional social networks such as LinkedIn or checking biographies of management members.
Frequent changes in managers do not necessarily mean bad interpersonal relations, but they usually mean that working conditions are constantly changing. Each manager brings their own management style and an organization that does not have stable leadership can experience major changes in the organizational atmosphere and structure of daily work. Perks not defined by the contract may be removed, the position may be moved to another department, and the communication style may become strictly hierarchical instead of friendly.
When asking questions at a job interview, you should try to determine whether the potential employer is organized, professional, and consistent. If there are ambiguities, answers are avoided, or ambiguous answers are given, it is risky to rely on the goodwill of the employer or an informal agreement.
Bad work experiences are best avoided because they can have a devastating effect on the health of employees, and most of them are a dead end for career advancement and are not worth suffering until things change. Even if a person is not responsible for bad work experiences, short work experiences on the resume can turn off future employers.