Personal Finance

Head for the door if you spot these red flags during a job interview

Key Points
  • Gauge the efficiency of, and technology used in, the interview process to see if a prospective employer is actually the type of company you want to work for.
  • Outdated software, having you sign and mail documents, and ignoring requests for updates on the interview process are signs of how a company handles its day-to-day business.
  • These things tell you how the company is going to be, says the co-founder of AI recruiting software AllyO, and it’s only going to get worse when you join.
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Ever get an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach during a job interview? Ever see two interviewers swivel their heads toward one another, lock eyes and pause before answering your question?

If you're the kind of person who wants to know the other side of the story, here's a way to interpret some interview clues that could foretell a dismal future job experience.

For starters, check out the technology the company uses in recruiting.

"If you have to use Internet Explorer to review documents or sign documents and mail them back, that tells you something important about their attitude toward technology," said Sahil Sahni, co-founder of AllyO, an AI-based recruiting software.

It also reveals how they feel about investing in new technology.

A company's use of old tech can be a pain point once you're actually working there, Sahni said.

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You may have to fill out formal requests for information or wait days for an answer to your questions. Whether it's a payroll question about your remaining days off or your benefits, it's a sign of a company that is not technologically innovative.

How a company recruits can be a tipoff.

Sahni recalls a colleague who turned down a job with a significant salary bump at a major tech firm.

The reason? He took a day off from work to fly from Texas to California. When he arrived, the HR contact sat him in a room so he could have three video conferences with people in the organization.

"They could so easily have let him stay home to do this, or they could have had him meet people in person," Sahni said.

The point is, they did not use the available tech to its best advantage, which gave the candidate serious reservations.

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During the recruitment process, you should be able to access communications by mobile device. You shouldn't need to sit down at a desktop and download software you don't ordinarily use. Some companies ask you perform tasks offline, such as fill out a form with a five-year residential and employment history, and then mail it in.

"Both indicate to me that this company is going to have heavy administrative overhead," Sahni said. "They haven't leaped forward yet.

"I will have to deal with that on daily basis," he added.

A company that is slow to respond is another red flag. "In the recruiting world, 85 percent of applicants don't hear back," Sahni said. Whether the candidate is on the back burner or someone just didn't like them, "it is a big indicator of how that company operates internally."

"If the process feels disorganized, slow, inefficient, this can predict how they handle day-to-day business," Sahni said. If you completed any type of assignment, take note of how soon – and if – feedback was provided.

A company that doesn't lay out the timeline at the beginning is breaking a rule that Sahni says holds true in all kinds of partnerships. The ideal is an interview process and a timeline, and a company that lays it out for you at the start. For example, a company might say their interviewing takes four weeks, beginning with a phone call and then an in-person interview. After that, they might have a final one or two rounds.

If the process feels disorganized, slow, inefficient, this can predict how they handle day-to-day business.
Sahil Sahni
co-founder of AllyO

You never want to hear, "Hey, why don't you come in and we'll figure it out."

If you have a chance to meet potential coworkers on the interview, Sahni recommends asking if you can see their calendar. This can reveal a lot about a future role, if you see Saturday meetings or any weekend or weeknight work commitments.

Finding a job is as hard as finding a house. You know you'd walk away at the last minute from buying a home you had reservations about, and Sahni recommends doing the same when red flags pop up about a job.

Money is in the short term, always insignificant, being far less important than the actual job that will put you where you want to be in five years. "If you keep solving for that, you will never hit that dead end where you have to reverse and make a U-turn," Sahni said.