Conversations have recently taken off on social media on a topic to which almost all of us can relate: job interview warning signs. We’ve all been there, right? And most of us are likely to have heard phrases that have left us thinking, “Oh man, working here would be soul-destroying. I have to get out of here, immediately.” So, without further ado, here are 40 of the most terrifying, and sometimes hilarious, red flags that you might hear during a job interview…
40. Optional overtime
“Well, the overtime isn’t mandatory, but most folks stick around after hours most days.” If a job interviewer utters this sentence, you have our permission to jump out of the window. Or politely leave through the door, whichever is easier. Because, to us, this sounds very much as though extra, unpaid working is actually mandatory – and not playing ball would be frowned upon. No, thank you.
39. Count yourself lucky
One of our least favorite things to hear in an interview is something akin to, “There are a lot of people applying here, you should count yourself lucky.” If the boss is already acting like he or she’s doing you a favor by simply interviewing you, it’s a red flag. Yes, the job market is tough these days, but if you’ve been picked for an interview, it’s on merit. The interrogator shouldn’t make you feel indebted to them.
38. Job security
A Reddit user with the wonderful moniker “DragonsLoooveTacos” posted this nightmare job-interview scenario, claiming it truly happened to them. Apparently, the interviewer asked if Dragons had any questions, to which they responded, “What is a challenge this department has recently faced?” The answer? “Job security.” Run for the hills, Dragons. Just run.
37. Purchase your own uniform
If you land a job in a retail outlet or a restaurant, you know you’re probably going to have to wear a uniform. But if you are being interviewed for this type of employment and are told, “You have to buy the uniform from the company with your own money,” you should seriously question whether you want that position. Because that just doesn’t sound right. At all.
36. Interviewer no-show
If you arrive for your interview and the manager or staff member scheduled to see you doesn’t turn up, you should consider that a serious red flag. If there was no attempt made to contact you to reschedule the appointment, that’s also a red flag. And if the company doesn’t apologize at all for its mistake, just don’t ever go back there. They’re not worth the hassle.
35. A wearer of many hats
A Reddit user named “Couch_Slug” revealed how they heard the sentence, “You’ll be wearing many hats” during an interview. They successfully landed the job, but they soon realized the fateful phrase had been “a sign that they were going to give me the work of four positions and the wage of one.” Poor Slug left the position after less than a year and now won’t even consider any employment whose recruitment process includes that sentence. Sounds fair enough to us.
34. GlassDoor reviews
Going into an interview having read some negative online reviews of the employer can be a tricky business. You need a job, but you don’t really want to work somewhere with a bad reputation for how it treats its employees. So, if you ask the manager about these reviews and they get angry at you, rather than answering your quite legitimate query? Get out of there. Fast.
33. We’re all a family here
If an interviewer places too much emphasis on their workplace being “like a family,” it’s not necessarily a dealbreaker. After all, it could mean they treat their employees with the same kindness and dignity they do their own relatives – assuming that’s a good thing. On the other hand, though, it might mean they will harbor unreasonable expectations, including tons of overtime and guilt trips if you don’t oblige. So beware!
32. High turnover of staff
Hearing that the position you’re interviewing for has chewed up and spat out eight people in the previous two years is a significant red flag. This is what a Reddit user named “Gpob” faced and they were understandably alarmed at such a high turnover of staff. They decided not to accept the job, despite being offered it. We’re gonna go out on a limb and declare that a wise decision.
31. Let’s keep the salary between you and I
If you accept a job at interview and are told, “What I’m paying you stays between you and me, okay? Don’t discuss pay with anyone else,” it should raise some questions. While, yes, discussing salary with other employees is usually not the done thing, it’s rare that an employer would specifically tell you not to do it. It likely means they’re trying to pull a fast one by paying you less than your co-workers. Not cool. And even if it’s the other way round, and you’ll be on more than your peers, that’s not a great situation either. There could be a lot of bad blood down the line…
30. Are you planning on having kids anytime soon?
Too many women in job interviews have heard, “You’re not planning on having kids any time soon, right?” or “What are your childcare arrangements?” These are questions never asked of prospective male employees, despite fathers being heavily involved in childcare as well. It’s an element of sexism that is unfortunately still prevalent, so if you hear something like it, you have every right to stop the interview and leave.
29. Late interviewer
Dana Manciagli, a Seattle career expert, had some choice words for interviewers who arrive excessively late and without a hint of an apology. She told Forbes magazine, “Not respecting someone’s time isn’t just rude, it’s bad for business.” She added, “If they’re this rude at the interview, imagine how they would be as a manager.” We’re going with Dana on this one, folks.
28. Badmouthing the person before you
Listening to an interviewer running down the previous employee whose job you would be filling is a surreal experience. It’s also a big no-no, according to New York recruitment expert Melissa Gentile. She told Forbes , “No hiring manager should ever speak ill about the person they are replacing. That shows poor character and judgment, and also speaks poorly of the organization.”
27. The interviewer isn’t familiar with your résumé
Any manager doing a round of interviews will be seeing a lot of people in any given day. That’s got to be tough at times, but remember that it’s incumbent upon them to familiarize themselves with the people they’re interviewing. If they aren’t 100 percent fluent in the intricacies of your résumé, that’s fair enough. But if they clearly have no idea who you are and obviously haven’t even read the thing? Head straight for the door.
26. Your role is unclear
Interviewing for a job isn’t always a terrifying, nerve-racking experience. Sometimes it can be exciting, particularly if it’s in an industry that you love. Don’t let that excitement cloud your judgment, though, especially if the interviewer can’t succinctly explain what your role would entail. If they’re wishy-washy on important details like that, your dream job could wind up becoming a nightmare.
25. Too many personal questions
Connecting with an interviewer on a personal level can sometimes be the key to landing a job. But, if they seem too keen on learning more about your personal circumstances, or if they overshare about their own family, it can be a warning sign. You’d be within your rights to leave. Still, maybe don’t say, “Look, buddy, I didn’t ask for your life story.” We learned that one the hard way…
24. If the interviewer checks their phone or email
Look, it’s obvious that we’re all addicted to our smartphones in this day and age. Sometimes it seems it’s pretty much impossible to even watch a 22-minute sitcom episode without checking your cell ten times. But, if your interviewer looks at their mobile or flicks through their emails during the interview, you should consider that a bad omen. They’re meant to be determining if you’re suitable for gainful employment. That requires focus, man.
23. Interviewer’s office is messy
Twitter user “Captain Awkward” posted about an unusual interview experience that made us chuckle. They wrote, “Potential boss’ office was a mess – overflowing with clutter. He offered to take my nice expensive wool professional-lady coat from me, looked around, realized he had no place to hang it, so he balled it up and put it under his chair.” Whoa. No one should work for this fashion criminal.
22. How would you handle a co-worker who is a total jerk?
Asking an interviewee how they would handle a co-worker who is a total jerk, yet has monetary value to the company, is a dicey topic. Number one, it shows that the firm is willing to tolerate a toxic employee, as long as they make it money. And two, it shows that bosses will expect you to be the one taking the brunt of said jerk’s jerkiness. It doesn’t sound like a great deal to us.
21. Flex time after your standard 40 hours
Hearing that an employer offers flex time is, more often than not, a huge plus to any job. But, if you inquire further in an interview and they respond with, “Everyone works 9am to 6pm, that’s the core 40. We’re flexible about how you choose the other 20 each week,” you need to run for the hills. As Twitter user “The Musicks” found out, that’s not what “flex time” should mean. Not even close.
20. You can eat lunch with the other office ladies
Twitter user “EmlpsaLoquitur” posted about a law practice interview in which she was told that, if she got the job, she could have lunch with “the other office ladies.” The interviewer reasoned that, because the other lawyers were men, she wouldn’t want to eat with them. So, yes, he was effectively telling a female lawyer she should eat with the administrative staff, rather than her peers. Not a great way to start a working relationship.
19. If your interviewer reveals they hate their job
Picture the scene. Your interviewer is leading you on a tour of the office, waxing lyrical about the culture of the business. But then, in the midst of this, they let slip that they actually regret some of the choices they’ve made in their life. You know, the ones that led them to this job. Oh, and they’re also actively seeking a way out of the company. This exact scenario happened to Twitter user Mark Hoffarth and it sounds insane.
18. Write a haiku about yourself
We understand the impulse of many interviewers to think outside the box. Asking the same questions over and over can get boring, after all. But asking your prospective employees to write a haiku about themselves is perhaps a step too far. Dr. Stephanie Sleeper on Twitter experienced this and revealed she was later forced to explain her haiku in a group setting. The cringe is strong with this one. She took the job, but if she’d turned it down, would it have counted as poetic justice?
17. If the interviewer likens your sick parent to a distraction
It’s always best to be upfront with an employer in an interview. If your parent is currently sick and taking up a lot of your time, then you have to let them know. This is what Twitter user “Radical Rising” did. But, if the interviewer replies with, “Oh well, we really need someone who won’t be distracted,” you have every right to get the heck out of Dodge. You don’t want to work for a psycho like that.
16. If the interviewer tells you he’d like a mistress exactly like you
This one beggars belief, but a Twitter user claimed it was a genuine interview experience. She alleged that, following her interview, she was told, “If I were going to have a mistress, you would be the kind of mistress I would want.” We hope she didn’t take that job, because that interviewer sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
15. You’re asking too many questions
It’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that you are only at an interview to answer questions. While, yes, that is always the primary focus, you are usually encouraged to show some curiosity towards your prospective employer as well. If you do this, though, and are shut down with, “You’re asking too many questions, it feels like you’re interviewing us,” it’s a huge red flag. It simply begs the question: what are they trying to hide?
14. Suppose our e-mail servers are on blackhole lists
Alarm bells should start ringing if, as part of an interview, you hear, “Suppose you were trying to send e-mail, but your company’s mail servers have been put on various blackhole lists. How would you get around that and deliver the mail anyway?” For those not in the know, that means those servers have been identified as the source of email spam. So when Twitter user Kagan MacTane was asked this very question, we hope he got out of there post haste because that employer sounds super-shady.
13. The gals get their health insurance through their husbands
Most large companies in the U.S. offer health insurance as part of an employment contract. Not all employers do it, though. So, if you ask an interviewer about it and they respond, “Well, now, we let the gals get their insurance through their husband’s jobs,” you should tell them you’re not interested in the position. A Twitter user named Erin experienced this sexist nonsense. Walk away, Erin.
12. Quit being so cheerful
Generally speaking, a sunny disposition is a good thing in the workplace, especially if you’re dealing with the public. It also helps with your colleagues because no one wants to be around a sad sack all day. If an interviewer tells you that your cheerful nature would make it hard for you to fit in at a company, though, you should seriously consider whether you want to work with such clearly miserable people. No thanks.
11. The person who had the job before you is suing us
Twitter user RJK claimed he once asked an interviewer, “Can you tell me about the organizational culture?” and, boy howdy, the answer was a doozy. The employer allegedly said, “The person who had the job previously quit and filed [a] suit against the manager you would be working for. Otherwise, it’s fine.” Oh my. We’re not sure that sounds fine at all, buddy.
10. You will be a contractor and we only hire for a year to keep costs down
In today’s job market, employers hiring temporary staff is extremely common. But if interviewing as a contractor, you’d probably like to hope there was some scope for it to eventually lead to a full-time job. Unfortunately for Twitter’s Max Dubler, his interviewer was brutally honest and told him he’d never get that full-time role, no matter what he did. In fact, as a cost-cutting measure, his contract would only be for a year at most.
9. If the interviewer tells you not to work there because they like you
Have you ever been in an interview where you’ve just hit it off with the interviewer? You’re getting along like a house on fire and are sure you’re going to get the job. Well, Reddit user “BrokenLavaLamp” had an interview like that. But then he was told, “Look, I like you. You’re a smart kid. Don’t work here. If you want the job, it’s yours, though.” Wait. What?!
8. We work hard and we play hard
Reddit user “Astramancer” was told by an interviewer, “We work hard, and we play hard.” They felt that, in reality, this would mean ten hours of overtime every week and an expectation that you would have to go drinking with your co-workers every Friday. For some people, that would sound like an ideal job. But, for others, it would probably sound like nightmare fuel.
7. Unbalanced work ethos
These days, work/life balance is on the tip of every employee’s tongue. Gone are the days when it was seen as honorable to work yourself into the ground and never see your family, all to bring home more money. Therefore, if any interviewer says they don’t understand what you’re getting at when you ask about the work/life balance within their company, you need to get gone. Fast.
6. Probation period personal assistant
A woman named Melinda told Forbes about her interview horror story. She revealed the manager told her she had to pass a probation period in order to land the job, the length of which was at his discretion. It could be three months, or even a year. Oh, and she’d have to do errands for him too, like picking up his dry-cleaning. We hope she said, “No dice,” and never went back there.
5. We don’t need a contract
Contracts of employment are vital to every employer and employee. It may seem weird to have to state that, but you still encounter some bad eggs out there pushing the notion that these legally binding documents agreeing terms of work aren’t needed in all cases. It’s a fundamental example of trust between two parties, and if you’re ever in an interview where the employer says they don’t do contracts, politely decline their job. Or not-so-politely decline it. Dealer’s choice.
4. Tell me a number and I’ll make it happen
If you ask about salary during an interview and hear the reply, “You tell me a number and I’ll make it happen,” try not to be fooled by the seemingly awesome offer. In reality, the employer is taking advantage of your eagerness to get a job. In all likelihood, you’ll be scared of aiming too high and will wind up undervaluing yourself.
3. Too many face-to-face interviews
Interview processes can be tough going, especially if the position involves multiple face-to-face meetings. According to LinkedIn member Tim Falletti, though, if you are asked to attend any more than three interviews, you should probably look elsewhere. It’s highly likely the company is indecisive and, if they are unsure about you at that point, those in charge will be unlikely to change once you start working for them. This means the job could wind up a total headache.
2. We don’t train our employees
If an interviewer tells you that the company you would be working for doesn’t train their employees, it’s the reddest of red flags. It sounds insane, actually. What company would have that policy? Reddit user “iBeFloe” claimed that was exactly what they were told in an interview, though. To figure out how to, you know, do the job, they were told to simply watch other employees and pick things up as they went along. Yeah. How about, ‘No?’
1. Unpaid trial shifts
You have our permission to walk out on any interviewer who tries to persuade you to do unpaid trial shifts in their business. In certain customer service jobs, such as waitressing or bar work, they are unfortunately still common. But they’re total bunk, because all trial shifts amount to is an employer getting free labor, while you have no guarantee it will ever lead to anything. No thanks.