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4/17/22 - Signs that a potential employer may be ‘trying to hide something,’ and other interviewing red flags

by Gili Malinsky 


  • A majority of Gen Z (born after 1997), 79%, will probably look for a new job this year, according to a recent Bankrate survey. 
  • If you’re looking for a new position, it’s important to pick up on any red flags about a company before you commit to working there.
  • Try to meet employers in person, notice if they’re late to your interviews, and ask questions like, “Why do you work here?”

A majority of Gen Z, or those born after 1997, 79%, and millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, 61%, will probably look for a new job this year, according to a recent Bankrate survey of 2,449 adults.

If you’re on the hunt for a new job, you’ll want to pick up on any red flags throughout the interview process to make sure it’s both a good fit for you, and not a toxic place in general.

“We have so much information available to us now,” says Julie Bauke, founder and chief career strategist with The Bauke Group. There’s a lot you can learn even before you apply. But during the interview process is a great time to assess if this is a place you want to work.

Here’s how to pick up on some red flags about a prospective employer.

How to figure out if an employer may be ‘trying to hide something’
The pandemic took “away the opportunity to meet with people in person,” says Bauke. This made it harder to “see what they’re like in their office environment, read their facial expressions” and get a better sense of whether or not you’re a fit.

As more companies return to the office, the opportunity to interview in person is coming back, too. “One red flag would be they don’t give you the opportunity to meet with anyone in person, if possible,” says Bauke. To her, this means they could be “trying to hide something,” such as disgruntled employees at the company, or an undesirable work environment.

Many companies are hiring remote workers who live far enough away that meeting in person isn’t an option. Some companies haven’t returned to the office yet. And some companies have given up their office spaces altogether, complicating in-person interview opportunities.

As you interview, take it case by case, and be wary of any employer that seems especially averse to the idea of you meeting with employees face-to-face.

‘Patterns of behavior repeated over time is the corporate culture’
Another element of the process to take note of: How is your prospective boss treating you?

If the hiring manager “is showing up late, not apologizing, rescheduling your call constantly — and this is at a time when they need to impress you — what does that say about how this person is going to treat you when you show up and start working for them?” says Gorick Ng, Harvard career adviser and author of “The Unspoken Rules.”

This kind of disrespect does not bode well for when you’ll be an employee and they have leverage over you, he says. It could make your work life at this company very difficult. Moreover, it could be indicative of how employees are treated at the company at large.

“Patterns of behavior repeated over time is the corporate culture,” he says.

Ask: Why do you work here?
To get a good sense of what it’s like to work at a company, come to the interview process prepared with very specific questions.

Bauke suggests asking some version of the following:

> How has your company culture changed since the pandemic?
> Why do you work here?
> What does success look like in this organization?

These could give you a sense of what you could expect as an employee, especially if the answers are vague and unclear. If the hiring manager can’t tell you why they want to work at this company, how can you be sure you’ll want to?

You can even get more specific, asking questions like, “What are the most exciting and frustrating aspects of this role? What do you expect me to have accomplished in my first week, first month, first year, first quarter?” says Ng.

“You’re asking about behaviors,” he says. “You’re asking about, really, how things get done.”