8 Interview Clues To Consider Carefully Before You Decide to Accept an Offer!

What does getting a mortgage have to do with accepting a job offer?

I’ve recently been dealing with a bank mortgage officer. Very long story short, after many years of being offered the opportunity and resisting, I finally reluctantly accepted an offer to sell me a co-op in a great neighborhood at a good price. (More to this story…but that’s for another time.)

When we first started talking, the mortgage guy was oh so nice. He chatted me up and even shared lots of stories, including stories of customers who get angry. (Foreshadowing one of the traditional clues of a bad date.) He said he knows it’s a stressful time, but people just don’t seem to have any patience nowadays…and now I know why! Besides the obvious similarity of needing a mortgage in a tight economy, there is one other thing all his customers have in common. That’s right. It’s him!

This got me thinking about reader comments about job interviews with potential interview red flags that eventually lead to jobs that don’t work out. You know those “is this something to worry about?” moments…like when the boss interviewer starts going off on former employees – blaming others for what went wrong. (Amazing how it never seems to be the boss’s fault.) Sometimes they do it with humor and sometimes they even do it in a seductive way that makes you feel you’re being brought right into their inner circle…but in all cases, the clue is that the fault is never with the person telling the “they done me wrong” stories.

As with dating, no matter how cute or charming he or she appears to be, if you hear about exes who were idiots or inconsiderate or always angry (oh…especially that), remember whom they all have in common. Hint: It’s not you.

The Real Question is…Do I Want to Work for THEM?

In a tough job market, I know it’s hard to be thinking “do I want them?” when your rent is due and all you’re really thinking about is finally holding a real live paycheck in your hands. And even if you do get a bad feeling, you just may need to take the job anyway – while you keep looking.  But at least you can come into the job with your eyes wide open.

So before you decide on whether to accept an offer, think back to the interview(s) with your future boss and try to remember how much of the conversation was about things like:

  • “We just can’t find the right person although I’ve tried a lot of people in this job.”
  • Stories putting down or making fun of former or current employees. (Beware especially if you start thinking “But it will be different with me” at this point.)
  • Complaints about employees that show it’s the boss who can’t communicate:
    • They don’t understand what I tell them.
    • They ask too many stupid questions.
    • I’m the only one who knows how to do anything right!
  • Lots of turnover. (“People just aren’t willing to work hard any more, you know?”)
  • “We can’t get ahead of the heavy workloads and long hours.” (Rather than a challenge to you, this could be a huge red flag signaling  management problems.)
  • Did your potential boss really listen to what you said in the interview?
  • Did your potential boss do almost all the talking? (This can go either way, but I once had a horrible boss who barely asked me any questions – he just talked at me!)
  • Do you get a feeling you can’t even put a name to that something feels wrong?

If you’re thinking you’ll be the one to finally get it right or save the day (again compare to dating), well sure…that could happen. So could winning the lottery. But odds are that even if you do get “it” right, this type of boss will simply find other “its” to make you the fall guy for his own insecurities and lack of good management skills.

Look both ways before accepting

There is of course no way to know for sure whether to accept an offer from just a few interviews – and any of the potential red flags I mention could turn out to be inconsequential. But at the very least…remember you’re there to see if this is a fit for you as much as to show them how amazingly utterly perfect you are for them. If your gut signals “uh oh” even a little…listen. It may simply mean you need to ask more questions or nose around a bit (search engines, other employees, word on the street) to see what’s really going on at the company. Could be it’s a good opportunity after all.

But just as with dating (or mortgage officers 😉 ) there very well may be more to the picture that at least merits paying attention to. So please don’t overlook those “uh oh” feelings!

Would love to hear your own stories about interview red flags. Or simply your th0ughts on this subject.

More Work Coach Cafe interview articles

7 Things NOT To Do in an Interview (I Didn’t Think I Had to Tell You)

18 Practical Tips to Help You Ace that Interview

The Single Most Important Thing in Any Job Interview

15 Things I Look for When I Interview People

10 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job

How Do I Ace My Phone Interview?

Help! I Get Nervous When I Interview for a Job

How to Interview If Your Interviewer Doesn’t Know as Much as You?

What Should I Be Thinking During a Job Interview?

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  1. My friends give me a hard time because I constantly relate work to dating:) The similarities are truly endless and your attitude plays a large role in both.

    I tend to avoid the places that are always hiring. If your past employees weren’t happy enough to stay, what are the chances I will be? Companies are no different than individuals: the best indicator of future performance is past performance. Another red flag to me is the hiring bonus. If you’re giving everyone thousands of dollars for staying there 6 months and still have a lot of turnover, it must be a crappy place to work (unless your field is really that tight).

    I just entered the job hunt last week and I’m being really picky (although there are actually plenty of jobs in my field so it’s not as brave as it sounds). I can’t remember the last time I turned down so many jobs. Recruiters are calling me every day and are shocked when I don’t jump at anything they mention. When I say the contract is too short or I’m not knowingly taking a job with a lot of weekend hours, they reluctantly say something like “yeah, that’s what the other candidates said and why the job has been open for months”. I immediately feel justified and have more confidence to stick to my guns. Instead of being disappointed, I think of jobs I hated in the past and feel like I dodged a bullet.

  2. Hi Ronnie – so many good points here!!

    We were just talking this morning about clients who work all weekend long because bosses expect them to. As someone else in the conversation pointed out, that often happens when prospective employees don’t ask questions to determine the culture of expectations within a relationship or organization. Too often the prospective employee is too afraid (esp a problem these days) to set ground rules for their own needs and agreements.

    Just happens we are putting together a program for Interviewing for and with Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills. While more employers are now looking to hire for greater people skills and team skills, interviewees can be doing their own EI exploration to determine much deeper information about their prospective bosses and the culture they are signing on for!

    If I were job hunting now, I’d make learning these skills a top priority (and oh how I wish I’d known them in the past!)

    Another valuable post – thx Ronnie!

  3. Hi Ronnie Ann!

    Well said (as usual :-)). I love the way you’ve outlined some of the red flags. Your advice to listen to your inner voice (& the uh-oh feelings) is spot on and really touches on all the wonderful points you’ve made here. Thanks for your delightful humor…I could actually visualize potential employers making the comments you’ve outlined, and it made me smile.

    Have a wonderful weekend!


  4. Thank you so much Louise and Shahrzad! Your visits always brighten my day. 😉

    Hi Brian! I love your comment and your approach to job hunting. Sounds like your instincts are good and you’re not afraid to trust them. Also sounds like you don’t believe in doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. 😉 Best of luck!!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  5. What do you do when you are mid-interview process, the company wants you to come in for more interviews and you have that uh-oh feeling? Do you continue on and then decline the offer or do you notify them and not even procede with the process?

  6. Hi Lori!

    Interesting question. Personally I’d probably go on with the process (at least one more interview) and see what happens – although it would also depend on what caused the uh-oh feeling. But if I did go on, I’d be even more open to asking good questions of THEM.

    When you have nothing to lose (since you’re ready to let it go anyway), it lets you interview in a whole new way. And if after the next time you are sure you don’t want it…then by all means let them know. Meanwhile keep looking elsewhere of course.

    Good luck whatever you decide. Please keep us posted.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

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